Drowning – Pool Drain Entrapment

Pool  drain  entrapment is one of the most horrifying ways a person can drown. It can happen when all of the normal safety precautions appear to be observed. It can happen to a child holding their parent’s hand and to adults who never swim alone. Once it starts it is almost impossible to stop in time to save a life, but it doesn’t have to happen in the first place.

Pool  drain  entrapment occurs when a pool  drain  cover is defective or missing. Normal pool operation involves cycling the water through a filtration system, and in order to do this, water must be sucked out of the pool through the  drain . When the cover is defective, excessive suction can cause swimmer’s hair, clothing, or body parts to be trapped in the  drain  until they drown. In extreme cases, swimmers are disemboweled by the suction.

Defective  Drain  Covers

 Drain  covers should be inspected on a regular basis for brittleness, cracks, loose screws, and improper fit. Obviously they must be present. Defective  drain  covers include those which are:

o Loose

o Improperly attached

o Brittle and failing

o Broken or cracked

o Missing

The purpose of the  drain  cover is to prevent body parts from entering the  drain  and to prevent the  drain  from becoming blocked or partially blocked.

How Entrapment Occurs

A partially blocked pool  drain  creates extreme suction. The suction can be so great that the victim cannot be pried loose, even by several large men. When a pool  drain  cover is missing or broken, a swimmers arm or leg can enter the  drain , blocking it and creating suction. Long hair and loose clothing can also get caught in a  drain , causing partial blockage and increased suction.


Disembowelment is the worst-case scenario. When a swimmer sits on a defective or missing pool  drain  his or her intestines can literally be sucked out through the anus. The damage is irreparable, and often results in death. Those who survive face a lifetime of intravenous feeding and will require a colostomy bag.

There are several measures that pool owners can take to prevent pool  drain  entrapment:

o Pool  drains  should be regularly inspected for cracks, brittleness and a secure fit. If there is any sign of a defect, no one should be allowed in the pool until the problem is corrected.

o All pools should have a visible and accessible emergency shut-off switch which immediately shuts down the pump. Everyone who uses or hangs out around the pool should know where the switch is and be able to operate it.

o A modern system, designed to prevent excessive suction should be installed. There are several types of systems which do this. One uses two  drains  for each pump so that if one becomes blocked water still flows through the second  drain . Another type detects high suction and disables the vacuum to prevent entrapment.