Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Offers Tips for Keeping Kids Safe this Swim Season

Press Release Date:  Tuesday, May 25, 2010  
Contact Information:  Shelley Catharine Johnson
Deputy Communications Director
502-696-5659 (office)

With pools preparing to open across Kentucky, Attorney General Jack Conway has some important tips for keeping kids safe this swim season. General Conway and the Kentucky Department of Public Health are also warning public pool owners that they will not be allowed to open if their pools are not in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Pool and Spa Safety Act. The VGB Act is named in honor of former Secretary of State James Baker's granddaughter who died tragically at age seven after being trapped under water due to the suction from a spa drain.

"Although rare, drain entrapment poses a very real threat to a child's safety and can result in serious injury or death," said General Conway. "My Office of Consumer Protection has worked closely with Kentucky public health officials to enforce the VGB Pool and Spa Safety Act and to protect Kentucky kids from this avoidable tragedy."

Signed by President George Bush in 2007, the VGB Pool and Spa Safety Act makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute or sell drain covers that do not adhere to the standards for anti-entrapment safety set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Act also requires public pools and spas to be equipped with these anti-entrapment drain covers as well as a device to disable the drain in the event of an entrapment.

"Public Health and the Attorney General's office have worked diligently over the past 12 months to ensure statewide implementation of the VGB act," said Guy Delius, director of the division of public health protection and safety in the Kentucky Department for Public Health. "At this time, the vast majority of public swimming facilities are complying with the federal law and are working to make sure swimmers have healthy, safe environments to enjoy. We are continuing these efforts to make sure all public pools will become compliant with the law."

Approximately three-dozen pool operators in Kentucky were in violation of the VGB Act at the end of the 2009 swim season. Each has received a notice that they will not be permitted to open this year unless they comply with the law. Furthermore, any pool or spa not complying with the law may be subject to federal penalties and closure through enforcement actions.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Water

General Conway also reminds parents and caregivers of the important role they play in keeping kids safe in the water.

"Nationally, an average of nearly 400 children, ages 14 and under, die each year in pools or spas. The most important precaution for parents is active supervision. Make sure to stay where you can hear, see and reach kids in the water and avoid distractions such as talking on the phone," General Conway said.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to follow these tips for a safe swim season:

  • Always actively supervise children in and around water. Don't leave, even for a moment.
  • If you have a pool or spa, or if your child visits a home that has a pool or spa, it should be surrounded on all four sides by a fence at least five feet high with gates that close and latch automatically.
  • A pool or spa should be equipped with an anti-entrapment drain cover and a safety vacuum release system to prevent children from being caught in the suction of the drain.
  • Clear the pool and deck of toys as they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.
  • Enroll your kids in swimming lessons around age four, but don't assume swimming lessons make your child immune to drowning. There is no substitute for active supervision.
  • Don't rely on inflatable swimming toys such as "water wings" and noodles. If your child can't swim, stay within arm's reach.
  • Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child whose breathing and heartbeat have stopped.
  • Keep rescue equipment, a phone and emergency numbers by the pool.

Keeping Kentucky kids safe continues to be one of Attorney General Conway's top priorities. Earlier this year, he joined with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to launch the KY Kids Alert initiative to ensure that Kentucky child care centers and certified family child care homes receive child product recall alerts from the CPSC. As a result of the KY Kids Alert initiative, nearly 3,000 child care centers are now receiving potentially lifesaving child product recall information.