Access blocked: The Pool and Spa Drain ProteKtor inserts directly into the drain’s pipe. It's meant to prevent access and diffuse vacuum if the drain cover comes off.
Access blocked: The Pool and Spa Drain ProteKtor inserts directly into the drain’s pipe. It's meant to prevent access and diffuse vacuum if the drain cover comes off.

?by Rebecca Robledo Three industry pioneers have joined forces to introduce a new, lower-cost, anti-entrapment product aimed at the residential pool market.

In the 1990s, when suction entrapment first became commonly known, David Stingl and Paul McKain invented two safety vacuum release systems. Stingl founded Stingl Products with Tony Sirianni in 1996, and Paul McKain’s PlaySafe hit the market about a year later.

Over time, the two companies would become well-known within the pool and spa industry and garner a large share of the SRVS market.

Now, the three professionals have teamed up to offer the Pool and Spa Drain ProteKtor, a small device that plugs directly into the drain pipe inside the sump. The ProteKtor is designed to prevent access to the pipe opening should the cover come off. It also diffuses the vacuum through multiple holes across its surface.

The device incorporates design and technology from Ron Schroader, developer of Drainsafe outlet covers, one of the few brands to escape a Consumer Product Safety Commission drain cover recall in 2011.

The team's new company, PSD Industries, is based in Sterling, Va., with McKain as CEO, Stingl as president and Sirianni as COO.

Stingl and Sirianni also continue to operate Stingl Products. McKain sold his SVRS technology to Hayward Pool Products in 2004.

The ProteKtor is designed to prevent three of the five types of entrapment — limb, hair and mechanical — and mitigate a fourth type: evisceration. However, it doesn’t help against the most common form, body entrapment.

The goal of bringing the product to market was not to replace SVRS’s, but to augment them, in part because existing technology already protects against body entrapment, McKain and Sirianni said.

Retailing at about $65, the product could represent a low-cost option for residential pools, most of which are not required to have SVRS’s or other backups.

“[SVRS’s] are still a vital and important part of single main drains,” Sirianni said. “But [the product] has not crossed over into the residential pool market.”

McKain developed the initial concept for the ProteKtor while working as an expert witness. He was testing a plumbing configuration he set up in his own pool to disprove a claim by the opposing party when the “aha” moment came.

“As I was getting ready to break down the piping — I had 200 feet in each direction — something just told me, ‘I’m missing the big picture here,’ ” McKain said. “I literally stared at that pool for about five minutes, and it just hit me and I thought, ‘It can’t be that easy.’ ”

Stingl and Sirianni were called in to help fine-tune the initial prototype.

“We’re taking the ProteKtor and inserting it into the pipe and now, instead of having that single solid source of vacuum coming through that opening, the ProteKtor has it pulled from 360 degrees,” McKain said. “So, literally, it diverts the vacuum.”

The openings are small enough to prevent hair or mechanical entrapment, the sellers claim. The top plane is covered with the largest holes permitted by code to prevent entrapment while allowing as much flow as possible. The sides are covered with a fine mesh, the use of which was licensed from Schroader.

Because the ProteKtor doesn’t fit into an existing product category, there is no specific standard for it to meet. However, it complies with NSF/ANSI Standard 50 – Equipment for Pools, Spas, Hot Tubs, and Other Recreational Water Facilities. It also meets the PVC standards outlined in ANSI/APSP-16, which governs the production of suction outlet fittings, McKain said.

The company plans to approach the Consumer Product Safety Commission to get it listed as a CPSC-approved anti-entrapment method, to conform with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, but not necessarily to place it in state and local codes.

“It’s not my goal to push this into code,” McKain explained. “I just want to make sure this always remains a choice.”

PSD Industries is placing the product on the market and seeking distributors.