Facility Profile - February 2010
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A Life-Saving Solution

YMCA of Greater Omaha in Omaha, Neb.

By Dawn Klingensmith

So perhaps there will come a day when virtually all lifeguards, working solo or not, will be equipped with immersion alarms. The YMCA might simply be ahead of the curve.

By comparison, think back about a decade ago, when automatic external defibrillators first started to appear in recreation centers. Now, AEDs—which administer shocks when people go into cardiac arrest—are standard safety equipment, not just for recreation facilities but also workplaces and public gathering spaces like movie theaters.

The YMCA of Greater Omaha has had AEDs at its facilities for quite some time, and on at least one occasion, an AED literally brought someone back from the dead.

In December 2008, four months after Daniel's rescue, an AED—in conjunction with CPR—brought back a man in his 60s who had a heart attack and collapsed on the racquetball court. His partner couldn't find a pulse. The patient's son started CPR, and an AED was rushed to the scene.

The first few minutes of a cardiac arrest are the most critical. The patient was already shocked and breathing when emergency medical workers arrived from their station, just one or two minutes away.

Knowing an untimely death had been averted, "When they began working on him, a fireman said, 'Welcome back,'" Butkus said.

Like the AED, Turtle-like immersion alarms might become standard safety equipment at aquatics facilities. But that day has yet to come.

"I believe people are becoming more and more aware," Butkus said.

News coverage of Daniel's rescue "sparked interest," she added. YMCAs in the neighboring state of Iowa contacted her to learn about the Turtle and similar products on the market. And CNN featured the Turtle in a segment on pool safety.

However, "There would be a lot of red tape to get through to make it a standard pool regulation. Right now, its use is being driven by insurance companies," Butkus said.

Currently, the Turtle is considered a discretionary expense, Lyons added.

"For the broader public pool market, we're probably three to five years away from any tipping point," he said. "The YMCA example is slowly spreading, but a lot more publicizing is required, including with the public pool insurance underwriters. Tight money is severely limiting discretionary spending."

It might take an accident or a close call for aquatics directors to see immersion alarms as must-have safety equipment.


YMCA of Greater Omaha: www.metroymca.org

Safety Turtle/Terrapin Communications Inc.: