The first entrapment case that I was involved in was in June 1974.

It occurred in a spa in Orange County, Calif., but no one really could sort out what had happened. It was a small child, one of the terrible tragedies.

I went down with some local officials to try to figure out what had occurred. We had some pictures of the autopsy and knew it wasn’t a basic drowning. It was just grizzly.

Afterward, I went back to Swim Quip and talked about it with the people in engineering, trying to understand what I had seen. We had a tank in our test lab, so we built a model of a drain and did testing on it. I actually went in the water and trapped off on this drain, trying to find out what was going on.

In 1980, I went into private practice as a designer and consultant with Rowley International in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.,and I continued doing work on entrapment prevention. I’ve trapped off 300 times on main drains, maybe more.

At the time, and rightfully so, it was thought that the way to prevent suction entrapments was dual main drains. So we were testing dual drains to see what the propensity was of a person to trap off on a 12-by-12-inch grate, whether a person could release themselves, and also what was happening with the pump.

Later the question arose that if you had a dual main drain and one of the covers was missing or broken, could that be a hazard? We found that with dual main drains, no matter what you did with it, with the test setups that we had and the pumps that would be available to a residence, there wasn’t a hazard. So dual main drains really are a safety precaution.

Now in California, as of January, you don’t have to put main drains in a commercial pool at all. If you don’t put drains in, you can’t have a suction entrapment, period. But we have to get the information out.

Here’s the bottom line: If everything I’ve done from 1974 until now has saved one child, then I’ve been a success. The problem is that you never hear about someone who doesn’t have an accident, so you can’t count the saved lives. But you can count the times that it occurs, and it’s becoming less frequent.

— Bill Rowley, Founder/Board Chairman, Rowley Intl., Palos Verdes, Estates, Calif.