Skip to main content
Search
Services
TECHNOLOGY

'It is a third eye for lifeguards'

By Karen Gibson for CNN

story.pool1.jpg
This image shows the young girl beginning to fall to the bottom of the pool.

QUICKVOTE

Which aspect of life has been most changed by new technology during your lifetime?
Communications
Healthcare
Transport
Work
or View Results

READ MORE STORIES

RELATED

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

Technology (general)

(CNN) -- Karen Gibson, 26, works as a lifeguard at Bangor Swimming Pool in northern Wales. On August 24 this year, she helped rescue a young girl who was close to drowning -- an electronic pool monitoring system alerted her the girl was on the bottom of the pool. Here is her story.

It was the summer school holidays and the pool was very busy. I was monitoring the deep end of the pool -- which is 12ft 6 inches (3.8 meters) deep. On this particular day there were about 100 children splashing about in the pool, some were playing on a large rubber inflatable toy that we had in the water that day. There was another lifeguard helping children on and off the inflatable toy.

The pool receptionist had just delivered a message to me and as she was walking away she spotted a young girl, face down on the bottom of the pool. At the same time an alarm sounded.

We have system in the pool that sends off an alarm if something is on the bottom of the pool for more than 10 seconds. It involves eight overhead cameras looking down from the ceiling, plus four underwater cameras scanning the bottom of the pool.

They are all linked to a network of monitors, which picks up if there are any objects that shouldn't be there. The sensors alert the computer and a red light flashes on screen. All the lifeguards wear a pager, which alerts them if something is on the bottom of the pool.

We have lots of false alarms but this time it was for real. I jumped in straightaway to get to her and pulled her from the bottom. She was unconscious -- not breathing. By this time, two other lifeguards had jumped into the pool and helped get the girl out.

My supervisor did mouth to mouth resuscitation on her and after two breaths she was breathing again.

Sometimes we have a case -- what we call "silent drowning" -- where the victim shows no signs of struggling on the surface. It's a mystery why this happens but there is no way to alert the lifeguard. It all happens very quickly. In this case, there was no struggle.

You can't tell when a silent drowning is going to happen. I don't know how long she would have been at the bottom of the pool it if wasn't for the technology. She could have been there for two minutes, or three or four. If we're talking three or four minutes, we're talking the difference between a death caused by drowning and life. She wasn't in a critical state and the quick response meant she made a full recovery, quickly.

I've got two children and the worst just goes through your mind. I've worked as a lifeguard for five years and this is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me on the job. This sort of equipment hasn't been installed to replace the lifeguard. It's expensive but it's worth it. It's a third eye because a human can't see everything.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN
CNN.com gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN
CNN.com gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Search JobsMORE OPTIONS


 
Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines