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Is drain entrapment a hazard in the spa or pool?

While it appears as though Old Man Winter might not have finished completely with New York City, it's a given that the weather will soon be warmer. As the mercury rises, kids and adults will once again begin flocking to area pools to cool off, increasing the likelihood of swimming accidents.

One of the most dangerous hazards for swimmers of all ages, but particularly children, is drain entrapment. This happens when someone gets sucked onto the drain in a spa or pool and can't pull away from the force. Below are five ways that a person and/or objects attached to them may become fatally entrapped:

-- Body areas like the torso or buttocks can get stuck to a drain.

-- Evisceration can occur when a rescuer attempts to pull a victim away from the suction.

-- Hair can get tangled in drain covers, holding the head under the water.

-- Parts of bathing suit material or jewelry can hang up in the drains.

-- Fingers, feet, legs and arms can all get sucked onto a drain.

Drain entrapment is a terrifying experience even for those who survive it. Before swimming or relaxing in a pool or spa, ask if there are anti-entrapment drain covers in place. If not, don't enter the water.

If drain covers disengage or loosen, the spa or pool should be evacuated immediately until licensed maintenance personnel can make repairs. Pools and spas should have emergency pump shutoff systems installed for emergencies.

Swimmers should be warned to steer clear of the drains. Those with long hair should tie it up so ponytails or loose locks don't become a deadly hazard. Diving for objects increases the risk of drain entrapment, as these items can get pulled toward the drains. Swimwear should hug the body and no dangling necklaces or other jewelry that can trap swimmers underwater.

If dangerous conditions cause a drain entrapment, the injured party or the survivors of those who die may be able to sue the property owner for damages.

Source: The Zac Foundation, "Pool and spa drain safety," accessed April 01, 2016

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