Why are we writing about swimming pool safety in the fall? One reason only – the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Effective December 19, 2008 this federal law requires that homeowners associations with community pools take certain actions intended to reduce the risk of injury caused by the pool’s drainage and suction systems.

In promulgating this legislation, Congress found that, of injury-related deaths, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 14 in the United States. This law was the direct result of a young girl who was using a wading pool. The wading pool had an uncovered drain. The girl got caught by the drain, and the suction from the drain caused significant injuries, leading to her losing much of her small intestine, and ultimately, her life.

The legislation applies to public pools and spas, leading many common interest community leaders to believe that it does not apply to their communities. However, the legislation defines “public pool and spa” as a swimming pool or spa that is–

(A) open to the public generally, whether for a fee or free of charge;

(B) open exclusively to–

            (i) members of an organization and their guests;

            (ii) residents of a multi-unit apartment building, apartment complex, residential real estate development, or other multi-family residential area

By December 19, 2008 all public pools and spas must be equipped with anti-entrapment devices or systems that comply with certain mandated criteria, and each public pool and spa with a single main drain other than an unblockable drain shall be equipped, at a minimum, with 1 or more of the following devices or systems designed to prevent entrapment by pool or spa drains: (i) a safety vacuum release system which ceases operation of the pump, reverses the circulation flow, or otherwise provides a vacuum release at a suction outlet when a blockage is detected, that has been tested by an independent third party and found to conform to mandated standards; (ii) a suction-limiting vent system with a tamper-resistant atmospheric opening; (iii) gravity drainage system that utilizes a collector tank; (iv) an automatic pump shut-off system; (v) a device or system that disables the drain; or (vi) any other system determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to be equally effective as, or better than, the systems described in subclauses (i) through (v) above at preventing or eliminating the risk of injury or death associated with pool drainage systems.

If your Board is unfamiliar with any of these requirements, you should check with your pool maintenance company to assure that your community is in timely compliance or call us to assist you with the requirements.