YMCA unveils state-of-the-art drowning detection system

Published 4:42 pm Thursday, August 20, 2009

It takes an average of one minute and nine seconds for a lifeguard to find a drowning victim in a pool.

But thanks to the new Poseidon drowning detection system at the Shelby County YMCA in Pelham, that time is now down to 12 seconds.

The $30,000 Poseidon system was unveiled Thursday during a ceremony at the YMCA.

The new, state-of-the-art drowning detection system is the first of its kind in Alabama.

The system uses advanced computer vision technology to analyze activity in the pool, including monitoring swimmers’ trajectories.

Cameras above and in the pool monitor swimmers, while a wall-mounted LCD screen near the lifeguard stand serves as the main control.

When a swimmer is identified as a drowning risk, an alarm will sound and an LED display panel on the back wall will alert the lifeguards to the location of the victim and the elapsed time since detection. When the victim comes off the bottom of the pool, the alarm stops.

“This is the lifeguard’s third eye,” said Shelby County YMCA Board Vice President Howard Bailey.

While the system was hailed as a huge asset for the lifeguards, Birmingham YMCA CEO Jim Lombard said it is not meant to replace lifeguard manpower or hours.

“Poseidon is unique in the world as a drowning detection system, but our lifeguards exist to keep people from drowning,” Lombard said. “Together they will keep our pools safer than ever. Our mission calls for us to build mind, body and spirit, and we can’t do that unless we’re safe.”

While the Poseidon system at the Pelham YMCA is the first in Alabama, plans call for the installation of another system at the downtown Birmingham location this fall.