rebeccarobledo The formula for preventing these tragedies includes not only codes and standards, but professionals with the right expertise.  


In March, we received news that we hadn’t heard in a long time. Not only did a child die from suction entrapment in a commercial pool, but she was taken in one of the most horrific ways possible.

Eight year old Aliyah Jaico went missing at a Houston hotel. Surveillance footage showed her sinking into the lazy river and failing to resurface. After a lengthy search, her body was discovered in a pipe.

We don’t know what happened yet. That can’t be stressed enough. Rumors have started based on observations from members of the search team. One individual commented that the pipe in which the child was found should have been a return line — it was supposed to feed water into the pool, not suck it out. Based on that, some have theorized that the pump was wired incorrectly. But I’ve been told that a miswired pump won’t move water in the wrong direction but would just fail to start.

It may be a while before we find out what happened in this specific instance, however we know we have the solution to combat entrapment. Pools should be built, renovated and maintained to comply not only with the national Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, but also with state and local codes and, in the absence of those, industry standards.

This is most likely to occur when properly educated aquatics, pool and spa professionals are charged with these tasks. If general operations and maintenance staff are caring for the pools, put them through a certification program such as the Certified Pool Operator course. Hire aquatics consultants and contractors who specialize in aquatics features. Plumbing these features, which generally operate under markedly higher pressure, is not the same as plumbing a bath tub. A lack of expertise can undo all your good intentions, as an improperly plumbed drain can still pose a hazard, even if it has the right cover, even if you have the dual drain system or prevention-entrapment backup device. With the wrong attachment hardware, a suction outlet cover can come off well before it’s due for replacement.

On one hand, it’s a blessing that an unknowable number of lives have been saved due to the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act and other codes and standards on which advocates and professionals worked so hard. On the other hand, this knowledge makes losses like this even more devastating.

Let’s hope these incidents become even more rare in the near future.