Safety experts worry drowning statistics will increase with more families buying pools

With more pools popping up due to the pandemic, water safety experts worry that drowning statistics will also rise.

Like many families, Rachel Plepel and her family took the plunge and bought a swimming pool last summer. 

"With the pandemic, we needed something to occupy our children with," said Plepel.

Her two sons, three-and-a-half-year-old Cameron and 18-month-old Evan, seem to really like it.

However, they have different attitudes when it comes to water safety.

"Cameron is very cautious.  He does not like to go in the water without an adult, which is great," said Plepel. "Then, we have Evan, who just started to walk and has no fear."

Drownings are the number one cause of accidental death for kids between the ages of one and four years old, according to the CDC.

"One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about drowning is how fast and how silent it is," said Adam Katchmarchi from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. 

This is why the Plepel's have several safety measures in place to help prevent such an accident.

There are locks on the backyard gate, a removable pool ladder and a buddy system, to name a few. 

As with most aspects of our lives, technology is making some waves as to how we do things, including pool safety.

"There are newer technologies coming on the market every day as it relates to aquatic safety," said Katchmarchi.


A group of swimmers in south suburban Frankfort showed FOX 32 how one of the newest devices to hit the market works.

"Wave is a drowning detection system that measures how long each swimmer is under water," said Mark Caron from Waves DDS.

Each swimmer has a wearable device that attaches to either a headband or swim googles. The device transmits a low energy blue tooth signal to a hub. The device sounds out a signal two times every second. 

When a swimmer goes under water, the signal is blocked and the hub sets off an alarm if a swimmer has been under for too long. 

"So, if its submerged, its the absence of that swimmer we are looking for," said Caron. "We essentially have a stopwatch on every swimmer, timing how long they are underwater."

The alarm setting is adjustable. 

Caron recommends 15 seconds for young kids, and 20 to 30 seconds for accomplished swimmers. 

If you are not near the hub, you can still hear the alarm go off on your cell phone or computer, as the system is connected to your home WiFi, and sends both visual and audio alerts.

"There is even new systems coming on the market now that use artificial intelligence and cameras to view the backyard and recognize when there is someone in a potential dangerous situation," said Katchmarchi.

Olympian Bode Miller and his wife lost their 19-month-old daughter in a drowning accident three years ago. 

He is now a spokesperson for another drowning detection device called Coral Manta.

FOX 32 asked the company for an interview about its product, but did not hear back.

In the meantime, one safety expert has high hopes for this new technology.

"We're all looking at this as hopefully a new layer of protection that can help reduce the risk of drowning, and reduce the drowning numbers that we see, especially from backyard pools," said Katchmarchi.

While technology is changing the way we implement water safety, experts still say the best plan of attack is having several layers of protection in place. 

Things like a pool fence, locked gates and rescue equipment. 

Experts say having more than one safety precaution in place is key because anything, or anyone, can fail.