An uptick in sales of drain covers and suction vacuum release systems (SVRS’s) indicates increasing awareness of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act among pool operators.

But there’s still a long way to go.

Across the board, suppliers say there hasn’t been nearly enough product sold to bring the nation’s approximately 300,000 public pools into compliance. It’s not clear how many units are needed to make this happen, but experts estimate that only 5- to 20 percent are up to speed.

“We sold tens of thousands of [safety vacuum release] valves in the past 12 months,” said Paul Pennington, president of Vac-Alert in Santa Rosa, Calif. “But it certainly is nothing compared to what’s out there.”

As of Dec. 19, 2008, all public pools were required to have VGB-compliant drain covers and either dual-drain systems or single-drain backups, such as SVRS’s, suction-limiting vents or other devices meant to

prevent vacuums from forming.

Orders for these products increased slowly in early autumn as the deadline approached. As expected, sales rose dramatically in December and have continued to strengthen.

“It seems they’ve picked up since the deadline,” said Patti Kirsch, vice president of sales and marketing at Waterway Plasticsin Oxnard, Calif. “Maybe it’s because of trade shows, word-of-mouth and inspectors out there getting to know more.”

Many believe the boost in numbers stems from increased awareness of the law caused by coverage in trade magazines and industry events, as well as high-profile reports about the law that appeared in the mainstream news.

“When the deadline came for VGB, I don’t believe the people were educated enough to know the law was going to be enforced and how it applied to them,” said Bruce Porter, director of marketing communications at manufacturer Hayward Pool Products in Elizabeth, N.J. “Now that they understand the implications, it has changed. The phones have been ringing [with people asking] how they can become compliant.”

Any pools closed for winter have until they open to comply. For this reason, suppliers anticipate high demand through Memorial Day.

Last fall, public-pool operators had difficulty obtaining the necessary products for their pools. Some drain covers weren’t deemed compliant until November 2008 or later. Now manufacturers report that they’re able to keep up with demand, for the most part by working overtime.

“Everybody is working seven days a week getting ready for what they think is going to be a bigger number,” said Anthony Sirianni, co-founder and president of Stingl Products, LLC, in Sterling, Va.