Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Innovative Water Safety Products

by Reese on January 2, 2013

There Is No One Right Design – Learning From The Innovators

Wouldn’t it be easy if there was one right way to do things? Easier, perhaps, but not better, because when it comes to water safety we need layers of protection, not just one way of keeping children safe. Fortunately for us there are entrepreneurs addressing the issue of child safety by developing innovative new safety products on a regular basis.

I’d like to highlight some of the more innovative ideas I’ve come across in the last few years – ranging from the ‘scientifically tested and ready for market’ to the ‘hmmm, what if we tried…..’ Let’s start with the rigorously tested.


SafetyCope can easily replace the hard concrete surround around a swimming pool with more forgiving yet durable blocks of a specially formulated product. It looks identical to the surrounding concrete, yet has the added bonus of retaining sunlight and becoming luminesce when darkness falls.

The concept is innovative enough that there is no testing protocols, but when they had it tested by a independent experts it did exceptionally well when compared to the soft rubberized surfaces developed for playgrounds designed for a similar purpose of injury reduction.

Why consider replacing your surround with SafetyCope? (which is easily done) Think about it, why do we tell children not to run around a pool? Because if they fall, hit their head and lose consciousness and end up in the pool they will drown. SafetyCope potentially minimizes this risk. (we still need to tell children not to run, but you’ll be doing that until they are as old and creaky as you are)

Second, the glow-in-the-dark quality could be potentially alert people to the presence of a pool in the middle of the night. I can see this might be especially important if you have someone who is disoriented, has Alzheimers, or is a guest who is not familiar with your pool area. (Though clearly the pool should be fenced off anyway.)

Individual Sensor Systems

There are three great ones that I’m aware of, SENSA out of the U.K., WahoooSMS in the U.S., and Safety Turtle from Canada. They serve a similar purpose, a device attaches easily to the wrist or around the head and sends an alarm to a base station when the device is submerged for too long. Innovative back-up tool for lifeguards, because even the best lifeguard can’t see under dark water.

I see enormous potential for SENSA and WahoooSMS particularly at camps, large aquatic facilities, and water parks, where you have many people in the water detecting someone in distress beneath the surface may be almost impossible.

Safety Turtle is ideal for children, the handicapped or mentally impaired, or the elderly, especially those suffering from dementia, who live near a pool or other body of water. Also a great portable layer of protection for parents with small children who have a home pool or are visiting grandma’s house where the pool is an unfamiliar novelty and also may not have the layers of protection you have at home (fence, alarm).


SwimFin is still my favorite aid for the ‘almost swimmer’ or the child who is not really competent out of his or her depth. Rigorously tested and complying with numerous EU requirements by the designer, my children and I bought and test-swam a couple of fins and they found a permanent place in our swim bag.

Shaped like a shark or dolphin’s dorsal fin that straps around the torso with two velcro bands, they are fun, so children love them, and they do not hinder arm and leg movement, so they aid in stroke development while providing sufficient buoyancy to keep a child (and me) afloat. Also brilliant for correcting back stroke (the fin acts as a rudder) and helping a younger child master butterfly stroke since it keeps them from sinking too far in the water between strokes, so it helps in core and back muscle development.

Still no substitute for a Coast Guard certified life vest (PFD – personal flotation device) on a boat and I wouldn’t let a young child or a non-swimmer out of arm’s reach, but the SwimFin got my daughter in the pool and into calm ocean waters on vacation for hours on end since she felt more comfortable, which in turn meant my son and I were able to enjoy more water time.

How much do children love SwimFin? Every single place we took our SwimFin children asked if they could borrow it. I love any safety product that is so cool that children ask to use it.

Swimming Buddy

Swimming Buddy is a brightly colored lightweight cylindrical shape that easily attaches to a life vest and acts as a beacon to make the wearer of the life vest more visible.

Developed after the inventor nearly struck a small, virtually invisible boy in the water with his boat during the rescue of a teenager who was dismembered in a jet-ski collision, the Swimming Buddy makes it far more likely for a boater, jet ski operator, or anyone else see someone in the water waiting a ‘pick up’ or just playing around near a dock.

Think about it – a dark, wet head, a dark life vest, dark water with chop from motors or the wind – would you be able to see someone clearly without a beacon of some sort?

And finally, two amazing innovations just waiting to be developed. A fisherman in New Zealand realized that the fishermen were drowning because it wasn’t culturally accepted to wear a life jacket, and besides, they were too expensive and didn’t fit the Maori physique. His solution? Make a life jacket out of junk, and then, best yet, teach the wives to make the life jackets.

Problem solved – affordable protection with a built-in system to ensure the fishermen actually wear the jacket, they were answering to their wives!

Last one, our future entrepreneurs, high school girls in Arizona who decided to address the issue of child drowning by inventing a t-shirt for toddlers that inflates when it is submerged.  Click here to see the article about their invention.

Amazing idea and I’m especially excited about the next generation of entrepreneurs that will be making a splash in water safety products in all the right ways. I know I’ve missed some innovations, so please e-mail me at rebeccalioness@gmail.com if you have a water safety product that is an innovative way to keep children, and adults, safer in the water. The more we learn, the safer we will all be!


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