New Pool Safety Mandate in Effect Troubled Waters

 It sounds like an urban legend—something that supposedly happened to your cousin’s friend’s cousin. A little girl was at a barbecue party at a friend’s house, frolicking in the pool with friends. She swam to the drain at the  bottom of the pool and sat on it. The drain’s suction was so strong, it sucked the girl onto the aperture, trapping her  under the water. Once the adults on the scene realized what was happening and  rushed to help, it took two grown men 10 minutes to free her from the drain—which broke in the process—but it was too late to save her.  

 Tragically, this horrible series of events really happened, in a hot tub in  McLean, Virginia, in the summer of 2002. The little girl was seven-year-old  Virginia Graeme Baker—Graeme to her friends and family, and a more-than-competent swimmer. She also  happened to be the granddaughter of Jim Baker, former President George H.W.  Bush’s secretary of state, and a man with the influence to ensure that what happened  to Graeme would never happen again.  

 Taking Action

 Drowning is the number-two killer of children under the age of 14 in the United  States. In the last 20 years, there have been almost 150 incidents of  entrapment—someone getting stuck in the suction of a pool or hot tub drain—resulting in 36 deaths.On December 19, 2007, the Virginia Graeme Baker Act was  signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. The law requires all public  pools—including those in apartment complexes and HOAs—meet anti-entrapment safety standards established by the Consumer Products  Safety Commission (CPSC). It also establishes a grant program for states that  adopt these pool and spa safety laws as well as a national drowning prevention  program.  

 From the point of view of buildings and condo associations with swimming pools,  the most important part of the legislation is this sentence: “Public pools or spas that are not in compliance by December 17, 2008 may not  open for use until compliant.”  

 When the law was passed, condos had the option of waiting a year to implement  the new directives. But the waiting period is now over, and condos are now  facing three options: get compliant, open their pools without being compliant  and risk prosecution, or don’t open their pools at all.  

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