Prevention against pool drain hazards is essential, particularly for young children.

Pool and spa drains may not scream “danger” at first glance. However, pool drain entrapment is a very real risk for young children. From 1999-2007, there were 74 reports of circulation entrapments, including 9 fatalities. Here’s what you should know about pool drain dangers and what to do to keep your kids safe.

Safe vs. Unsafe Drains

Unsafe drains can come in various forms. There may be drains that don’t have any cover on them, which is extremely dangerous. Other examples of unsafe drains are those with faulty drain covers, which most likely do not meet the standards set forth by the VGB Act. 

Safe drains, on the other hand, have covers that are raised and usually dome-shaped. These covers also have smaller openings, which make it harder for things like hair and jewelry to get caught. When installed properly, these drain covers are the most effective way to protect children from entrapment.

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Drain Entrapment Prevention

Taking proper precautions and following these safety measures can help lessen the risk of pool drain entrapment and provide more peace of mind when children visit the pool or spa. To avoid suction entrapment dangers, follow these important rules:

Invest in newer pool and spa drains. These are designed so they can’t be fully obstructed. See our pool and spa safety checklist for more details on what to look out for.

Install anti-entrapment drain covers. Drain covers are an essential part of swimming pool safety. These will ensure that your children don’t become trapped underwater.

Know how to shut down power to your pool. Be prepared to shut down power to your pool pump in the case of an emergency. If you can’t find the pump, turn off the power to the pool.

Warn your kids to stay away from drains and other outlets. Evacuate the pool immediately in the case of a loose or missing drain cover. Alert the pool manager and return to the pool when the drain cover has been replaced.

Eliminate the possibility of entrapment. Always tie back long hair and never wear loose clothing in a pool.

Always ask about the drain. Ask pool and spa owners if they are using anti-entrapment drain covers. If they are not or don’t know, find another pool.

What is Pool Drain Entrapment?

Entrapment occurs when an individual or an object becomes stuck to the drain of a pool or spa. Drains can be one of the most dangerous parts of a pool due to their suction, force, and ability to create powerful water circulation. Explore each of the three elements that make drains dangerous:


Suction: Think about the end of a vacuum cleaner tube. If you’ve put your hand up to one, you’ve felt the pressure sucking against your palm. A pool drain exerts a much greater suction.

Force: Flat drain covers can be completely blocked by a body part. The suction can be equivalent to hundreds of pounds of force, meaning it might require multiple adults to remove someone trapped.

Circulation: Drains also create a strong circulation of water that can attract hair and cause entanglement, increasing the risk of entrapment.

Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Pool & Spa Safety Act

There have been no reported fatalities involving child entrapment on pool and spa drain covers since the Virginia Graeme Baker (VBG) Pool and Spa Safety Act went into effect in 2008.

The VGB Act mandates that all drain covers must meet ANSI/APSP/ICC-7 standards for suction entrapment avoidance. This is the only standard protecting against the three dangerous drain elements: suction, force, and circulation.


The Act also encourages each state to adopt its own entrapment avoidance laws pool and spa safety, along with barrier requirements for drowning prevention efforts.

Nancy Baker, the mother of the late Virginia Graeme Baker, appeared on our Keeping Kids Safe podcast to share her personal story and the VGB Act’s impact since its passage.

Types of Entrapment

Familiarize yourself with the five different types of drain entrapment, all of which can prove deadly for young children:


Body entrapment: A body part, usually with larger surface area, gets held down by drain’s suction

Disembowelment/Evisceration: The drain’s suction draws out an individual’s intestines and organs as a result of sitting on the drain

Hair entrapment: An individual’s hair gets caught and entangled in a faulty drain cover

Limb entrapment: An arm, leg, or foot gets lodged in an improperly covered drain

Mechanical entrapment: Jewelry, parts of a bathing suit, fingers, and toes may become caught and entangled in a faulty drain

people drown each year

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