In June of 2007, six-year-old Abigail Taylor suffered a horrific injury while swimming in a public pool. That injury ultimately took her life. Abbey was playing in a wading pool when she unknowingly sat on a drain that was poorly maintained and unequipped with the appropriate safety devices. The powerful suction of the pool eviscerated Abbey. Her small intestine was ripped from her body. The serious injury was followed by 9 months of medical care, including 16 different surgeries, many organ transplants, several infections and many, many nights spent in a hospital bed. Despite the best medical care and attention, Abbey died.
Abbey’s hope was that no child should ever suffer like she did as a result of an improperly maintained pool. In her memory and in response to their daughter’s stated wish, her parents, Scott and Katey Taylor, established the Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation. The Foundation works every day to make sure that all pools, both public and private, are safe.
Since the Foundation’s inception, it has helped the Minnesota State Legislature craft and pass the Abigail Taylor Pool & Spa Safety Act that requires all public pools in the state to be equipped with safety devices that help prevent entrapments and eviscerations. The Foundation has also worked with the United States Congress to pass the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGB), which does for the nation’s public pools what the Abigail Taylor Pool & Spa Safety Act does for Minnesota pools.
The law requires manufacturers of anti-entrapment drain covers to provide a “life span” for each cover. The expiration date is required because pool chemicals, UV rays and ordinary wear and tear can break down the plastic and screws. Drains, overtime or past their expiration dates, can become ineffective or easily break, making them a life-threatening danger to any child in the pool.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there has not been a single death in a public pool or spa due to entrapment, entanglement, or evisceration since VGB went into effect. In order to continue preventing preventable deaths, Abbey’s Hope recommends that drain covers be replaced as pools are maintained during the off-season. Public pool and spa operators should replace expired drain covers even if they look fine.
Today, several years after Abbey’s tragic death and after the passage of VGB, Abbey’s Hope continues to work to prevent the preventable. To that end, Abbey’s Hope wants to remind parents, caregivers and pool and spa owners and operators that they too play an important role in protecting kids from drowning and entrapments:
- Teach swimming and lifesaving skills: Make sure children know how to swim, float, tread water and get in and out of the pool safely. The importance of swimming lessons in saving lives cannot be overstated.
- Learn CPR: Cardiac arrests are more common than you think, and they can happen at any time and any place, including public or private pools due to a near-drowning. There are approximately 383,000 cardiac arrests each year, and 88% of them happen at home. Why risk being ill prepared if the tragic happened to someone right in front of your eyes? Effective bystander, hands-only, CPR provided immediately after a sudden cardiac arrest can triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR (CPR with just chest compressions) has been proven to be as effective as CPR with breaths in treating adult cardiac arrest victims. Parents should take classes in First Aid as well.
- Install barriers: An average of 280 children under the age of five drown each year in swimming pools, and far too many of those deaths are in inexpensive, inflatable pools that have been incorrectly deemed less dangerous than pools with a “deep end.” Inflatable pools that are about 2-feet deep can cost as little as $50, and larger pools that are up to 4-feet deep and 18-feet wide can cost under $400. The price makes these pools easily accessible to parents and the low barrier to entry makes them easily accessible to children. The sides of inflatable pools are flexible, often slanted and low, making it easy for a child to quickly climb in without supervision. All backyard pools should be fenced on all sides with a four-to-five- foot-high fence. Gates should be self-latching and locking. Spas and hot tubs should be covered and locked when not in use.
- Avoid dangerous drains: If loose, missing or broken drain covers are spotted, pool or spa operators should be notified immediately. Tie up long hair or secure hair with a swim cap. Warn children to stay away from drains or other openings.
- Be vigilant: Make sure an adult is watching children in the pool, spa and open bodies of water at all times.
Abbey’s Hope strongly recommends that parents share water supervision responsibilities with other parents, which is why the foundation created the “Water Watchdog Tag” system. The supervising parent or adult wears the “Water Watchdog Tag” until he or she passes the responsibility and the tag on the next parent or adult.
The adult wearing the tag pledges:
- To maintain constant visual contact with the children in the designated group (even if a lifeguard is present).
- Not to drink alcohol, use a phone, socialize or read while watching children.
- To keep a phone near the water for emergency purposes.
- Remain by the water until relieved by a new Water Watchdog.
To receive a free Water Watchdog tag, go the AbbeysHope.org and sign the pledge to protect children. Together, with the proper education and safety precautions, we can prevent the preventable.
About Abbey’s Hope
Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation is a Minnesota nonprofit organization named after Abbey Taylor, the Edina, Minn., 6-year-old who died in 2008 as a result of injuries sustained in an improperly maintained pool drain cover.
The Foundation’s goal is to:
- Promote awareness of and education related to child safety issues, including educating pool owners, operators, inspectors, and the general public about the dangers of pool entrapment, evisceration and drowning and the need for physical inspections of pool equipment.
- Work with the pool and spa industry to improve the design of its products, packaging and warning labels, and assist in the development of product safety standards related to such products.
- Partner with the community to develop a culture of water safety. Utilizing connections to city employees, first responders, and community activists to create a safer water culture.
- Identify and provide support and assistance to organizations and programs that help educate parents, children, and pool and spa manufacturers about the prevention of entrapment and traditional forms of drowning.