Aquatics programming is an important part of the community recreation formula, opening the door for participants of all ages to be active. However, aquatics activities are only as effective as the safety measures put in place around the pool.
Using a new drowning prevention technology called the Coral Manta 3000, the Greater Valley YMCA in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is taking the next big step in pool safety. Shaped like a stingray, this drowning detection system uses a submerged camera and artificial intelligence (AI) to sense when a swimmer is in danger and alert nearby lifeguards.
“It will actively detect people — you could throw a lead balloon or something in the pool, and it’s not going to set the alarm,” explained David Fagerstrom, the CEO of the Greater Valley Y. “But if the AI sees a person in the water, after so many seconds, the alarm goes off and it’s a loud, screeching noise that lets the lifeguard know it’s detecting something at the bottom of the pool. It gets your attention pretty quickly.”
This added layer of protection has been well-received by the aquatics staff at the Greater Valley Y, who appreciate the extra pair of eyes looking after members, according to Fagerstrom. They also like the system’s remote alert capabilities, which can make all the difference in drowning response time.
“It also has remote alert functions that tie into a phone app,” said Fagerstrom. “An aquatics director whose office is down the hall from the pool or branch executive director could get a notice saying there’s been an incident at the pool.”
Created by Coral Drowning Detection Systems, based in Israel, the Manta 3000 was originally intended for residential use. However, after searching for new drowning prevention tech for years, Fagerstrom stumbled across this new product, was impressed with what he saw, and began exploring options to pilot a beta test of the system in a community recreation setting.
As revolutionary and helpful as the Manta 3000 is, it’s important to understand it doesn’t replace lifeguards. “You still have to have a person who will actually jump in the water, pull someone out, and possibly do CPR,” said Fagerstrom. “It’s an extra layer of protection.”
That extra layer of protection can help keep swimmers safe, and give more peace of mind to both staff members and program participants. It’s this level of pool safety Fagerstrom is hoping to achieve at the Greater Valley Y and in community rec centers across the country.
“The Y has a long history of being innovative in aquatics and swim lessons,” shared Fagerstrom. “I think this is just another step. We’re trying to be proactive with figuring this technology out and what it can do, and it will save lives — I have no doubt about that.”