The VGB Act required that all public pools with single drains other than an unblockable drain, be equipped with a safety system that would minimize the chances of entrapment. One such system, called SVRS, or safety vacuum-release system, cuts power to the pump when someone (or something) blocks the flow
of water through the drain.
But controversy arose as the Consumer Product Safety Commission tried to interpret and implement the law. The CPSC commissioners voted 3 to 2 to interpret the legislation as requiring only an unblockable safety drain cover as satisfying the unblockable-drain option. CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum, however, articulated that unblockable safety drain covers were not the same as an unblockable drain. She stated that pools with safety covers that are broken or removed for service, as they often are, would not protect against entrapment if there was not a backup safety system in place such as an SVRS.
The CPSC vote disappointed some members of Congress, who wrote to the CPSC stating that the change ignored the intent of the law.
We know that injuries and fatalities can be prevented through the use of unblockable drain covers in swimming pools and spas. But Zachary Cohn died in a pool whose drain cover was removed during servicing. A safety vacuum-release system could have prevented his death. We believe that both systems should be used.
In further developments, yesterday the CPSC Commissoners voted to withdraw their draft "interpretive rule", which defines how the law is implemented, so that the application of the the new law could potentially be expanded. Formerly, their interpretaion of "public accommodation facilities" such as hotels and motels, exempted those with five rooms or less.
Realizing that this cut off did not provide a fully comprhensive measure of safety, the Commissioners voted to amend their interprtive rule, following a public comment period, such that "public accommodation facilities means an inn, hotel, motel or other place of lodging including but not limited to rental units that are rented on a weekly or biweekly basis." That could expand the pool-safety requirements to rented beach or ski houses, mountain lodges, and the like. The Act also provides a model state law so that, if adopted, regular residential pools would be covered. We think that expanding the law's application can only help prevent drownings.
With any swimming pool, look to make sure the drains won't cause entrapment. There should be more than one drain, a dome shaped drain cover, and/or a safety vacuum-release system attached to the pump or similar backup systems.
—Desirée Ferenczi and Don Mays