What Does VGB Mean and Who is Virginia Graeme Baker?

Information in this post can be found at poolsafely.gov

In the swimming pool world today, there are certain standards that must be upheld in regards to safety.  One of which is that main drain covers must be VGB compliant.  I have worked in the swimming pool industry for almost ten years now, and have been involved in most aspects related to swimming pools including, in-ground installations, pool maintenance, service/repair, plumbing, liner replacements, technical sales, automatic pool cover installation/replacement, water slide installation, and concrete work.  There may be a few things I have missed, but overall if it has to do with swimming pools, I have had a hand in it.  When I got into this business, there was a lot that I did not know, and growing up with a pool my whole life I thought that I knew a lot.  I was basically thrown into the mix of things at the beginning of the season one year and had to learn fast or I would not have made it too far.  Throughout my years doing the construction and service side of things, I had heard the phrase “VGB compliant” but as with every other new term or phrase I learned over the years, I just accepted it as another industry term.  Occasionally, with things like that I would wonder what it means,but like most abbreviations we used I assumed it had to do with some state or federal document that outlined the specifications of a main drain cover.  Which it actually is, but when I thought that the “VGB” part of the phrase must stand for something like “visible grate basin” or some other fancy talk of that nature, I was completely wrong.  I hate to admit it, but it wasn’t until years after I first heard the phrase that I actually looked into what it meant.

Virginia Graeme Baker, was a young girl who drowned after she was trapped under water by the powerful suction from a hot tub drain.  In June 2002, she became stuck to a hot tub drain and was unable to pull herself free. Efforts by her mother to pull Graeme from the drain proved unsuccessful. Two men who eventually freed Graeme from the spa pulled so hard that the drain cover broke from the force. Graeme died from drowning, but the real cause of her death was suction entrapment due to a faulty drain cover.

After her tragic death, her mother, Nancy Baker, worked tirelessly to advocate for pool and spa safety. Mrs. Baker, her family and Safe Kids Worldwide actively lobbied Congress to win support for a law to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices, as needed. The statute, which was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, was signed into law by the President in December 2007.
As a new father, I found this information to be rather upsetting.  I never knew of this girl or her family, but the thought of having to go through something like that is heart breaking.  I am very glad that this law got passed making swimming pools and spas safer for swimmers, but I wish it could have come at much less of a cost than the life of a child.  The reason that I bring this up is because I feel that terms and phrases like “VGB compliant” are tossed around too loosely.  As I have previously stated, I had no idea what it meant for quite some time.  I think that it is important for people to know and respect the fact that the only reason the phrase and law exists is because a little girl lost her life.  With my very heart filled condolences to the family of Virginia Graeme Baker, I want to thank her mother, Nancy, for working so hard to protect the lives of countless others. Thank you.  As you can see below, new Virginia Graeme Baker compliant main drain covers are designed to be unblockable.  Rather than being a flat surface, the new design is more of a dome shape to prevent a body from being able to completely block the flow of water.

In addition to replacing old main drain covers, there are other steps that can be taken to help prevent unintentional swimming pool injuries and deaths.  One is to install a perimeter fence around the pool.  This would make access to the pool more difficult for young ones.  Along with installing the fence it is important to make sure the gate is self closing and latching, with the latch out of reach of children.  Another good idea is to have the gate only open away from the pool.  Keep in mind that children are pretty crafty.  They could pull a chair or something up to the gate to be able to reach the latch.  If the gate opens toward the pool, then a child on a chair could unlatch the gate and push it open.  If the gate only opens away from the pool, then children would have greater difficulty opening the gate even if they were standing on a chair, because their bodies and the chair would act as a barrier.  Some people do have fences around their pools, however, they use the house as one of the barriers.  In this case, it would be a good idea to install alarms on the windows and doors that lead out to the pool area.  In regards to the pool area itself, it is a good idea to clean it up after swimming each time.  Leaving pool toys and towels laying around the pool area may be enough to temp a child into entering the pool area to retrieve a toy that they had fun with earlier.

In addition to that, many people have seen those devices that float around the pool that contain chlorine tablets, and some of them are shaped like toys (ie. cute little ducks, or frogs, or dolphins etc.)  While these types of chlorine feeders are more pleasant to look at than just a basic white and blue one, the fact is that they do look like toys, especially in the eyes of a child.  This is another thing that could tempt a child into entering the pool area.  I would recommend just going with the basic floating chlorine feeder.  Another tip is to not let your child’s ability to swim give you false security.  Children should always be supervised by an adult.  Furthermore, supervision should be the adults only job during pool time.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by social media or text messaging.  Keep a phone nearby in case of an emergency, but that’s it.  For more information on pool safety you can read my previous post “Swimming Pool Safety” or visit the website below.

I hope everyone has a fun filled summer relaxing poolside, and remember to be safe.

poolsafely.gov and stay safe this summer
For more information on Virginia Graeme Baker and other pool safety tips please visit