Health Team

WakeMed physician invents new way to alert adults to drowning children

Posted September 2, 2016 5:42 p.m. EDT

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children under the age of five and can happen quietly and within seconds, even when adults are nearby.

Even children who are wearing lifejackets need to be near adults when swimming and WakeMed emergency physician Dr. Graham Snyder has been on a crusade to prevent drowning tragedies.

“Swimmers that are not confident, well trained, or worse yet, not well supervised could be at risk for submersion injury or even drowning,” he said.

Snyder has helped develop another layer of safety in the pool, marketing a system called Seal SwimSafe, which is manufactured in Smithfield.

The device used a radio frequency signal and a siren device. The Raleigh YMCA adopted the product this summer.

The device’s neck bands, while still on a charger, are set to a child’s color-coded swim level. Splashing or swimming around the water’s surface won’t set the device off.

“If they stay underwater longer than their threshold of pain, that swim band suddenly turns into a strobe light, a siren which is located on the pool deck alerts everyone around that there’s a problem,” Snyder said.

A siren unit could be with both a lifeguard and a parent, so they could initiate a rescue if necessary.

Snyder says most people mistakenly think a child having problems in the water will first make themselves heard, crying out for help.

“That’s not at all what happens. Drowning is a very silent process. It actually looks like playing,” he said.

Snyder said the device is now being used on some cruise lines as well as locations in Tennessee and New Jersey.