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Parents, learn about drain entrapment to keep kids safer

Spring has sprung in New Jersey, and with the warmer temperatures, soon it will once again be time to head down the shore. This time-honored tradition continues at shore houses and beachside motels up and down the coast.

But there are inherent dangers in certain activities in and around water. Of course, people know and understand that the ocean surf and undertow can turn deadly at any time. But far fewer understand the consequences that can result from suction entrapment in a pool or spa.

What is suction entrapment?

For the unaware, suction entrapment occurs when a swimmer's or bather's swimsuit, body parts, hair or even jewelry get caught up in the suction mechanism of the drainage system of the unit through its powerful suction force.

This danger is most deadly to children, many of whom may play with the drain system by sticking their body parts to its suction grate. What they don't realize is that strong suction could trap them under the water until they drown.

Broken units present danger

Most well-maintained spas and pools use newer drainage systems with covered outlets that prevent suction entrapment from occurring. But kids horsing around in the water could cause a unit to break and become deadly.

The incredible force of a pool's suction system can exert as much as 350 pounds of pressure in an 8-inch drain with a pump. Even when an adult is present, they may not be able to break the grip of the suction in time to save the victim.

Evisceration could result

A rare but grisly form of suction entrapment can cause victims to be disemboweled from the sucking force if their buttocks make contact with the suction system. Kids all over the country have died in these and other incidents in backyard spas and in motel pools.

Parents, keep kids safer

If you are the parent of young children around pools and spas, you can take some precautions and help make them aware of the dangers that lurk just under the surface.

First, make sure that kids' bathing suits are well-fitting and without unnecessary flounces or material that could pin them to the drain. Longer hair should be pinned up, as it is less likely to get sucked into the drainage system that way.

Instruct your children never to stand or sit on the drain cover to the pool or spa. If you notice an uncovered drain outlet, forbid your kids from the water until it is once again well-secured. Parents should also take the time to locate the emergency vacuum shutoff switch before allowing the kids to jump in the water.

Newer spas are safer

Once manufacturers realized the danger the older models presented, they began to manufacture pumps with automatic release systems that turn themselves off when excessive vacuum builds up. This has undoubtedly saved many lives over the years.

Just because a motel is older doesn't necessarily mean that its pool drainage system is outdated or dangerous — but it could. When in doubt, speak to the management about any of your concerns.

If you or your child does get injured by the drainage system of a motel pool or spa, you may need to file a claim for damages to recoup any losses.

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