A girl swims in a pool near a floating pool accessory

Understanding pool drain safety is an important part of keeping your family, friends, and pets safe in your backyard pool. As part of basic swimming pool safety, it is both something that every pool owner should know and one of the details of pool ownership that is too often glossed over in your routine maintenance. Safety starts with understanding how your pool equipment works, so let’s start with what your pool drain does, and how it gets the job done.

Gravity-fed Filtration

Most often, pools are either fitted with one or two main drains. Older pools often have a single, large drain, while newer models are fitted with two drains for increased pool drain safety.At least one will be situated near the lowest point in your pool, where it plays an important role in keeping your pool clean. As the pool is used, water currents will slowly carry small debris that doesn’t float toward the low point of your pool. Once it reaches the drain, it is sucked into your filtration system.

Water and small debris travel through a drain pipe to your pool’s main filter, carried along by the suction created by your filtration pump. The water reaches your filter, which traps debris but allows water to pass through as long as the debris has not built up to the point that the filter is clogged. Once filtered, the water is returned through pipes to your pool, often through a heater and/or sanitizer that conditions the water. Along the way, there may be several check valves meant to allow easy access to the system or to remove too-large debris before it reaches your main filter.

Why A Drain Can Be Dangerous

In order to move large amounts of water, your pool is equipped with a powerful pump to create suction. This suction is what causes so much concern when it comes to pool drain safety. People–especially children–can be and have been injured by the suction created around pool drains.

  • Body Part Entrapment can occur when a limb or other part of a person’s body becomes stuck against a drain.
  • Hair Entrapment is always a possibility with unrestrained hair near drains.
  • Limb Entrapment is a major concern when small children play near an uncovered drain as their small appendages can become lodged in the pipe. Mechanical Entrapment happens when loose clothing, jewelry, or other accessories attached to a swimmer are sucked into a drain.
  • Evisceration is a serious injury that happens when part of the intestines are sucked out of the body by a pool drain.

In the mid-2000s, a series of horrific injuries put the spotlight on pool drain safety and led to the passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007. Virginia, a young girl and a strong swimmer, was killed when neither she nor her mother could free her from the suction of a faulty pool drain. The VGB Act made several important basic swimming pool safety features mandatory in an effort to prevent similar tragedies.

  • New Pools Are Built With Two Drains – By doubling the number of drains, the force of the pump is divided between two sources, easing the amount of suction and making it harder for people to become trapped.
  • Pool Drain Safety Covers Are Made Differently – Rather than a flat surface that can seal better and be harder to break the suction on, new drain covers are curved to prevent as firm of a suction lock.
  • Pools That Cannot Have The Drains Retrofitted Are Required To Use An SVRS System – A suction vacuum release system automatically turns off the pump if it senses an occlusion of the drain, such as by a body part.

A round swimming pool, drain clearly visible

Pool Drain Safety Practices

By following these basic swimming pool safety tips, you can make sure that you don’t have a drain related tragedy.

  • Make Sure Your Drains Comply With The VGB Act – The best way to have a safe pool is to make sure it complies with pool safety regulations. All drain covers should be anti-entrapment covers that make entrapment more difficult and escape easier.
  • Teach Children And Pets To Avoid Pool Drains – If kids aren’t around pool drains, they can’t be trapped by a pool drain. Even with a VGB-compliant pool, they still need to be educated so they’re safer when they visit friends’, relatives’, or public pools.
  • Find And Mark Your Pump Shut-Off Switch – Knowing your equipment is one of the most important pool drain safety tips. Ensure you have a cut-off switch, mark it, and make sure regular swimmers in your pool know where it is.
  • Only Allow Appropriate Attire And Accessories In Your Pool – Loose clothing, jewelry, unrestrained hair, and unsafe pool accessories should never come near a drain. In most cases, they don’t even belong in your water.

Safety Experts

If you have concerns about your pool or drain safety, talk to one of our experts. They can help you spot hazards in your pool area and talk to you about how affordable a pool safety cover that helps prevent drownings can be. Fill out the contact form on our website today.


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