Media coverage focusing on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act has intensified in frequency and tone, due in part to national television spots initiated by the Pool Safety Council.
Summer began, as it does every year, with a ramping up of pool
safety stories in the mainstream media.
But the tenor changed in early July after two networks covered
the topic of entrapment within a few days of each other. On July 6,
NBC’s “Today Show” aired an investigative piece accusing pool operators of putting children in danger. A similar segment ran three days later on CBS’ “The Early Show.”
Neither report acknowledged the differences in hazard between
shallow- and deep-water vessels, or the challenges inherent in
bringing some pools into compliance. Both segments characterized
all retrofits as simple drain-cover swaps.
After the national television coverage, local stories seemed to
take a more accusatory tone. Websites also pitched in, such as
InjuryBoard.com, which published the headline, “Why Are Unprotected Pool Drains Still
Threatening Our Children?”
Another Website, Momlogic.com, followed suit with “Swimming Pools Are Child Death
The additional focus on pool safety is partly due to the summer
season, but there’s another reason why VGB has been in the
The Pool Safety Council — a privately funded organization
spearheaded by safety product manufacturers — claimed
significant responsibility for the increase in press coverage.
George Pellington, East Coast sales manager for Vac-Alert, appeared
on the CBS piece as the spokesman for the Pool Safety Council. He
took reporter Susan Koeppen to PSC’s testing laboratory to
demonstrate the hazards of using a flat drain cover. A rubber duck
was placed over the cover and when the toy became
“entrapped,” Koeppen tried unsuccessfully to dislodge
It was PSC’s efforts in reaching out to major networks
that prompted the segments, said John Procter, communications
director of the Washington D.C.-based organization. “I
thought [the ‘Today Show’ segment] was a fantastic
story, as was the CBS story,” Procter said. “We were
The group works with local media as well.
In June, the widow of a Pittsburgh drowning victim filed a lawsuit against an
athletic club, stating that her husband had been stuck to a pool
drain when he died.
However, detectives arriving on the scene did not believe that
the drain posed any type of factor in the incident. The case is
In reporting the lawsuit, the local press depicted the incident
as an entrapment. PSC issued a press release in response to the
“We know there are more facts to come out in terms of the
investigation, but we are operating not only off the press reports,
but off the fact that the family has filed a lawsuit against the
property, and within that lawsuit outlines their reasoning by
entrapment,” Procter said.
PSC also is working with those who have experienced entrapments.
The group is consulting with the family of a Florida boy who was entrapped on his home
“They’re sharing their story with local television
news, local reporters,” Procter said. “And we’re
trying to raise [entrapment] awareness. ...”
As a result of the “Today Show” segment, the mother of
a young girl contacted PSC saying that her child experienced an
entrapment incident at a waterpark in Texas, Procter said.
According to a PSC press release, Tambra Walton’s
daughter became stuck for several seconds on a wall drain. The
incident caused a bruise on her inner thigh. No further details
One of the most recent examples of PSC’s outreach is on
the Website ifawebnews.com. The site serves as a news and
information source for the insurance industry, and in July
published a story titled, “Insurers Flailing on New Pool
Safety Law, Group Says.”
The article states that a nonprofit pool safety organization is
reaching out to insurers to make them aware of the VGB law and the
potential liability for noncompliant pools. PSC plans to create
educational materials for insurance companies and their brokers,
and to serve as a technical resource, according to the story.