Wasserman Schultz, Klobuchar Help Lead Drowning Prevention Effort Expansion as Swim Season Kicks Off

No work we do in Congress is more important than keeping our children healthy and safe. And the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act did that by saving countless lives over the years.

Washington, DC – This week, U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), John Carter (TX-31), Colin Allred (TX-32), and Michael Burgess (TX-26) and Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Roy Blunt (MO) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety (VGB) Reauthorization Act (H.R.7877 / S.4296) to help decrease drownings in pools and spas.


Drownings and near-drownings in pools and spas pose a significant public health risk to our nation’s children. Drowning is a public health crisis, and it remains the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages one to four. Further, drowning death rates for American Indian and Black individuals, and individuals in rural areas, demonstrate high disparities that greatly affect these communities and their families. However, we are not powerless in addressing these tragedies, and strong education, awareness, and enforcement efforts can help make children safer around the water and save lives.


“No work we do in Congress is more important than keeping our children healthy and safe. And the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act did that by saving countless lives over the years. So, it is critical that we reauthorize this bipartisan, common-sense law, and as we’re doing now with this reauthorization, expand its life-saving impact,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “As we stare in horror at the recent tragedy in Texas, adding to the layers of protection that keep innocent children safe is paramount. This law does that by helping decrease drownings in pools and spas, a concern every parent holds close as we enter the summer season when water activity picks up. Let’s keep our kids safe with sensible outreach, education, and precautions.” 


“When I first got to the Senate, a little Minnesota girl named Abbey Taylor was maimed in a swimming pool by a defective drain and, after sixteen surgeries, died nearly a year later. Her one wish was that it wouldn't happen to another child,” said Senator Klobuchar. “We passed a pool safety bill in 2007 shortly before Abbey’s death, and by further strengthening our safety standards, this bipartisan legislation will continue to honor Abbey’s legacy and protect more children from drowning and pool-related injuries. No family should have to live in fear that a fun day in the pool can turn into a horrible tragedy.”  


“In my home state, it’s sweltering and people are flocking to the pool to stay cool and enjoy time with their families. Those pools are a little bit safer because of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, and we must maintain those safety standards moving forward. As a grandfather to six little ones, if this bill saves one child from drowning, it’s worth it,” said Rep. Carter.


Since the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act first became law nearly 15 years ago, it has helped to make pools safer for children and to support drowning prevention efforts,” said Senator Blunt. “As kids head outside to play during the summer months, it is an especially important time to raise awareness around pool safety and continue building on the progress that has been made under this law, including by targeting resources toward rural areas. I’m proud to join Senator Klobuchar and Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Colin Allred, John Carter, and Michael Burgess in introducing this bill and I encourage all of my colleagues to support this commonsense, life-saving measure.”


“One of my most important jobs as a Congressman is keeping North Texans safe,” said Rep. Allred. “This commonsense bipartisan legislation will help make our public pools safer and will give local governments the funding they need. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation and thank Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz for her leadership.”


The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB), first authorized in 2008, is aimed at improving the safety of all pools and spas by increasing the layers of protection and promoting uninterrupted supervision to prevent child drowning and entrapment. The law has three principal elements:


  1. First, it requires every public pool in the US to install safe drain covers that prevent suction entrapment.
  2. Second, it initiates a grant program that incentivizes states and municipalities to have their own pool and spa safety laws and requirements on the books. These grants have provided critical support for local officials to educate communities about drowning and entrapment dangers. These grants also would be available to Indian Tribes and non-profit organizations, and can now be used for swim lessons.
  3. Third, it launches “Pool Safely,” a national public education campaign to raise awareness about drowning prevention.


"The passage of the VGB Act, in a significant way,  has helped to make some sense of the tragic death of my daughter, Graeme, and so many children whose lives have been lost in preventable drownings. The reauthorization of the legislation also makes sense, as we have learned over the past 15 years what works well and what might be done even better to ensure water safety.  I am fully supportive of the bill,” said Nancy Baker, Mother of Virginia Graeme Baker and water safety advocate.

"Our daughter Abbey's hope was that no other child would experience a death or injury from a dangerous pool or spa.  The VGB act was the realization of that hope.  We can all still do better with the reauthorization of this critical safety legislation.  We unequivocally support this bill,” said Scott and Katey Taylor, Founders of Abbey's Hope Charitable Foundation.


“The Virginia Graeme Baker Act is a shining example of how good policy can save lives, and this reauthorization represents a chance to build on that success. This is also an opportunity to address the serious and persistent inequities that exist around water safety,” said Safe Kids Worldwide President Torine Creppy.


"The VGB Act, passed only five months after our son Zachary's death, brought a semblance of peace and hope to our family. That no one has died by entrapment since the VGB Act was passed is a victory that we should all celebrate but, there is more work to be done. The reauthorization of this bill is vital to our communities and will ensure that all public pools comply with entrapment prevention requirements. Our family is committed to the success of this bill,” said Karen and Brian Cohn.


Groups supporting this legislation include:


Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Red Cross, Aqua Star Pool Products, Because of Brayden, Cayla’s Coates, Colin’s Hope, CPR Party, Drennan’s Dreams, Jack Helbig Memorial Foundation, Jasper Ray Foundation, The Josh Project, Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, Judah Brown Project, Just Against Children Drowning, Kacen’s Cause, The Ken Brindley Memorial Foundation, Live Like Cati, Levi’s Legacy, The LV Project, Miss Tristan Foundation, National Drowning Prevention Alliance, No More Under, Pool & Hot Tub Association, Rees Spect the Water, Rory the Warrior, Safe Kids Worldwide, Sisters Too, Stew Leonard Children’s Charities, Swim 4 Elise, Swim On Foundation, Team Kareem, YMCA, The ZAC Foundation.