Dec. 19, 2007, was a monumental day for the aquatics industry, thanks in large part to U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). It was on that day that the bill she championed, the Virginia “Graeme” Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, was signed into law.

As a representative of the people of south Florida, Wasserman Schultz has been an active force in aquatic safety and drowning prevention for many years. The first Jewish Congresswoman elected from Florida, she officially became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4, 2005. She introduced the Pool and Spa Safety Act on July 11, 2007.

The legislation is named after the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. In 2002, 7-year-old Graeme Baker died after being entrapped underwater in a residential spa while attending a get-together. The new law mandates three layers of protection; provides grants to states that pass comprehensive pool safety legislation requiring barriers to pool/spa entry; calls for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish a safety standard for anti-entrapment drain covers; and contains a provision requiring public pools to use anti-entrapment drain covers.

The law requires that within one year from the date of enactment, all drain covers manufactured, distributed or sold in the United States must meet American Society of Mechanical Engineers/American National Standards Institute entrapment standards. And all public pools or spas must have ASME/ANSI compliant anti-entrapment devices. In addition, every commercial pool or spa with a single main drain other than an unblockable drain must be equipped with specified anti-entrapment equipment.

Wasserman Schultz began her political career and involvement in pool safety in 1992, when she was the youngest woman ever elected to the Florida State Legislature. As a state representative, she was influential in ensuring the passage of the Florida Residential Pool Safety Act, which requires that new or substantially remodeled pools and hot tubs include at least one barrier to entry. This bill became the model for the national legislation.

“I believe pool safety is an issue that has cumulatively become a problem for communities in all climates,” Wasserman Schultz says. “Of injury-related deaths, drowning is the second leading cause of death in those aged 1 to 14. Children cannot make their parents or supervisors watch them properly and, as elected officials, it’s our responsibility to increase awareness and mandate that proper barriers be put in place.”