The VGB Act is more complex than you may think

Barrett KilmerThis summer the Kilmers got a family membership at a new swimming pool here in Madison. It was going to be a summer spent poolside, making memories, meeting new people, and most importantly, getting daily swim instruction for my son, Wilson, a third grader.

The first time we visited, he narrowly passed the deep-water test, which allowed him to swim in the diving well. Still, it was clear he needed to work on his skills.

By mid-season, after swiftly moving up a couple of levels thanks to the club's patient and encouraging instructors, my wife called to tell me he'd just completed a 100-meter individual medley. These days, my son's giving me lessons on the butterfly and the breaststroke, helping me with my breathing and even trying to get me to try a kick turn. (They're already teaching you kick turns? "No. I just saw somebody do it and copied them.")

These lessons are clearly doing the trick, and though I've seen too many stories of kids drowning in pools to take my eyes off him while he's in the water, it gives me peace of mind knowing that he's safe.

One morning in July, I watched a report on the Today Show about the proliferation of public pools that were not compliant with the provisions in the Virginia Graeme Baker Act. The reporter spoke with Inez Tenenbaum, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who said that, "public pools and spas that are not in compliance should not be open." This struck me as reasonable enough, until an industry friend pointed out a major flaw in that line of reasoning.

Fewer open pools, he said, meant fewer swimming lessons, and fewer swimming lessons meant increased drowning risk. What kind of way is that to promote pool safety?

Our pool is closing shortly after the school year begins, but because it's a new pool and is fully compliant with VGB, it'll certainly open next spring.

Let's hope the CPSC and local authorities across the nation allow the rest of them to open, too.

Barrett Kilmer
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