Drowning Interventions

Pool Alarms

Background

These alarms are designed to work by providing warning that the water surface has been disturbed (e.g., by a toddler falling in), either by detection of waves on the surface, or motion beneath the surface.

We found two published studies that were laboratory evaluations of pool alarms. The 1986 study19 demonstrated that in order for the pool alarm to detect a simulated submersion, the sensitivity of the alarm had to be set at such a high level as to make the false alarm rate huge (false alarms from wind, rain, filter start-ups, and unattended use).

A recent study (Whitfield, 2000) evaluated 4 different water disturbance alarms and wristband alarms; all with remote receivers. The outcomes measured were detection of surface waves, sub-surface disturbance, exposure to water (for wristband type alarms), and false alarms. Subsurface pool alarms were the most consistent and most reliably detected weight of "child like object" entering pool. This type of alarm produced fewer false alarms than other models.

Pool alarms may supplement, but are not a substitute for supervision or barriers completely surrounding pools.