Summertime means fun by the water, but all too often, playful pool games can turn tragic.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids under 5, and claims the lives of almost 400 children each year under the age of 15. But one aquatic safety company has an innovative solution that could help keep swimmers safer.
Their product is a Wahooo Swim Monitor System. The system requires each swimmer to wear a headband, called a swimband. The band contains two sensors and a sonar transmitter that sends out a signal when it is submerged longer than 20 seconds. The signal triggers warning lights posted along the waterfront begin flashing yellow, and after 30 seconds, the alert turns red and a siren starts going off, alerting lifeguards that someone is in danger.
For kids, it’s just like putting on a pair of goggles. For adults, it’s a cutting-edge safety upgrade. The New Canaan, Conn., YMCA paid about $30,000 to install the system in the Kiwanis Park pond, where they operate a summer day camp for kids. It was just the sixth installation anywhere in the world.
For the YMCA, a lifeguard wasn’t enough.
“You’d only be as good as your best lifeguard on a bad day and this is another layer of safety to help a lifeguard prevent a tragedy,” New Canaan YMCA Executive Director Craig Panzano said.
Part of the danger is how swimmers can disappear under the surface. Even in a clear pool, a swimmer’s movement can blur their presence. In a murky water pond, it’s even more dramatic. But the Wahooo system also helps lifeguards locate a downed swimmer, using a tracking device. Before, the best way to find a lost swimmer was to form a rescue line, sweeping the area step-by-step.
Safety experts call the technology game-changing.
“They can work directly to that point very quickly, within seconds,” said Paul Newcomb, the general manager of Aquatic Safety Concepts, maker of the Wahooo system. “It gives you the ability to learn very quickly that you have someone in trouble, and it gives you the ability to locate them very quickly, which is the key to the whole issue.”
It is technology that not only saves time but could save lives.
“It’s a roll of the dice every day you open your waterfront without some tool in your toolkit to help back up your lifeguards,” Newcomb said. “This system ensures that we have the best opportunity of sending everyone home at the end of the swimming day.”
ABC News’ Bradley Blackburn contributed to this report.