Alarming Your Backyard Pool

By Cecelia Jones

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD)- The Centers for Disease Control says drowning is the second-leading cause of death in children younger than 15 years old. An unsupervised child can slip into a pool without a sound or a splash, and in less than two minutes underwater, can lose consciousness. But what if an alarm went off the moment your child fell in that was so loud, even your neighbors could hear it?

Ten-year-old Zachary knows how to swim pretty well.  But when he was four, he scared his grandparents half to death.  "He has fallen in when he was little," said his grandmother, Debbie McClure.  "Larry was right there and got him out," she said.

Zachary was fortunate to have someone there to pull him out before it was too late. But, that wasn't the case for 3-year-old Amari Mendoza who drowned earlier this month after she fell into a backyard swimming pool.

"We're always concerned about that. We try to be as safe as possible," said Debbie.  She has layers of protection in her backyard. Her husband put a fence up that separates the pool from the rest of the backyard. She says the younger children cannot reach the latch to open the gate. And now, they're thinking about another layer of protection.

Newschannel 11 found a pool alarm that has been rated the best by independent testing engineers for the Good Housekeeping magazine. Bill Whitehurst, of Aquasensor, says the Swim Alert, a deck mounted unit, and the Espio, has been used in Europe for a number of years and is just making its way to the United States. He's going to explain how these two alarm units might save your child's life.

"According to ASTM standard, that's about the size of an infant that can get out of the house by itself and fall into the pool. That's the 18 pound threshold. We fill him up with water, we get to the 18 pounds and we perform the drop test," said Whitehurst.

The alarm, when it sounds, is piercing. It appears to be louder than a smoke detector. It only took six seconds for the alarm to sound, not just on this test but on our second test as well. Whitehurst says if the shrill of the alarm doesn't get your attention, a wall mount located inside your home will. But even without the wall unit, the alarm is loud. "I heard that," said Debbie as she was sitting on her chair in her house.

That's what makes this alarm unique. If the alarm is tripped, a magnet and a remote silence the noise.  It only takes a matter of minutes for the device to reset itself. It's a reassuring feeling to Debbie.  "It definitely gets your attention," she said.

"These alarms are designed to sense 18 pounds or more of when it drops into water, underwater?" asked NewsChannel 11.  "Yes.  It is that signal under the water created by that 18 pound object traveling faster than the surface noise," replied Whitehurst. He even showed us that when you throw in a ball or an inflatable toy, the waves on top of the pool won't trip the alarm.

Whitehurst says it's 99.9 percent false alarm resistant. It has different features like putting it in swim mode and even your cleaning tools won't trigger it. The Swim Alert retails for $300. The higher end sensor, the Espio, will cost you $700.

Right now, these devices are not sold in local stores, but they are both available to buy online. Click here for Swim Alert and click here for Espio.

To read the article in the July issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, click here.