PRB Articles


Preventing Drowning Incidents

The aquatic industry will see a considerable improvement in available safety technology this year. More options are now available that are user-friendly, affordable and, most importantly, effective!

However, even the best technology will not protect swimmers if they are not integrated into facilities. Adopting these technological solutions requires a degree of investment of resources. But it also requires the desire and the will to change. Neither requirement comes easily.

Remember when seat belts were awkward and cumbersome? Wearing one meant a driver needed to slow down and buckle up instead of merely jumping into the car and rushing off.

And then there was the added inconvenience of putting seatbelts on children in the back seat before a driver could even tend to his or her own.

And the “feel” of wearing a seat belt -- restrictive, cumbersome and wrinkled clothing -- what a hassle!

To add insult to injury, consumers were actually required to pay for this new safety feature.

Now, we realize the benefits greatly exceed the “costs,” and beneficial behavioral change can be readily incorporated into a daily routine.

Curbing Accidents

The same analogy can be made to using drowning-detection technology, an incremental layer of protection for aquatic environments. Technology costs money, implementation requires change, and maintenance and compliance can be difficult and time-consuming.

But consider these startling facts: Centers for Disease Control statistics indicate that drowning rates are becoming alarming.

In 2006, CDC drowning rates averaged nine per day. Four years later and despite more education, training and public awareness, CDC drowning rates have now increased to an average of 11 per day!

Sadly and surprisingly, too many of these needless and preventable drownings are occurring at guarded facilities. These dramatic statistics prove that even with trained and diligent staff utilizing “best practices,” the industry still struggles against this grave challenge.

Yet, the challenge is not insurmountable. The news is good and the future is optimistic because realistic technological solutions now exist.

What is needed now is change. So how about a revolution?

The time has come to “buckle up” swimmers. New technology can now keep track of all swimmers, and alert the staff when a swimmer is at a heightened risk.

What’s more, technology exists that will aid lifeguards in locating a submerged swimmer quickly, even in dark environments like ponds, rivers and lakes. Time is of the essence when a swimmer is in distress or missing.

A Beacon Of Hope

The Wahooo Swim Monitor System has recently entered the U.S. market. Swimmers wear swim bands that can be attached to the back of goggles, swim caps or head bands. The bands transmit a distress signal to a lifeguard if any swimmer is at a heightened risk of drowning.

The distress signal also acts as a beacon to help locate the distressed swimmer, saving critical time.

Engineered with the help of nationally renowned aquatic-safety experts, the system debuted at the 125th anniversary of the YMCA Camping Program in October 2010. This revolutionary safety system with affordable leasing plans is now available. The swim bands retail for $35.

These technological innovations will pay for themselves. Insurance companies are starting to embrace the cost benefits of today’s safety technologies. Operators of commercial pools and aquatic environments have a duty to provide the highest standard of care to the public.

The mantra of the National Drowning Prevention Association is that, through education, swim lessons, the newest technology and multiple layers of prevention, all drownings are preventable.

Tom Healy and David Cutler are co-founders of Aquatic Safety Concepts LLC, makers of the Wahooo Swim Monitor System. For more information, visit www.WahoooSMS.com.

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