As the old saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. And for all of us, there is no greater necessity than preventing our children from drowning.
Enter the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention Manager Andrew Ingram, and Drowning Prevention Coordinator Yaseen Gamiet, who, with the help of Power Plastics Pool Covers, have come up with two ingenious ways to overcome common water safety education obstacles.
The first project: A platform for teaching Survival Swimming
“One of the issues people face when learning to swim is access to safe water,” Yaseen explains. “The depth is often the challenge as we recommend, based on our teaching methodology, a maximum depth of 1.1 meters.”
Some pools might be too deep and the heights of the children being taught might differ depending on their ages. In order to make the teaching area shallower, Yaseen came up with the idea of creating a submersible platform that can be placed in a pool to create a safe space that complies with the maximum 1.1 metre requirement.
“If you have a 1.5 metre deep pool, we can insert the platform and change the depth to 1 metre. So we can make a pool depth safe to teach in. It’s not just a floor. It actually has a railing. So your students can’t escape without the instructor seeing,” Yaseen says. “Andrew suggested we chat to Power Plastics, and that was where the relationship was formed for Survival Swimming. In short, they have created a ‘pool cover’ that acts as our platform. Deon from Power Plastics was instrumental in getting this going.”
“It’s not only for our use. Ultimately, our Survival Swimming platform designs and training manual will be available to everybody in the world so we can stop drownings. So we’ll be able to say, if your pool is too deep, here is a platform, build it as we have advised, and put it in the pool so you have a safe pool to teach in,” Yaseen concludes.
A proof of concept for the platform has been created and is currently being tested by Yaseen and his team.
"As a safety ambassador and advocate of child drowning prevention, we welcome the participation from a like-minded partner like the NSRI," says Director of Power Plastics Pool Covers Caryn Formby. "They are also deeply entrenched in safety practices and the prevention of drowning. While sea rescue is a critical aspect of all anti-drowning initiatives, so too are inland anti-drowning information programmes and infrastructural initiatives."
The second project: ‘Portable’ indoor swimming pools
“We’re busy building the first of what I hope will be many indoor swimming pools inside a 12 metre shipping container,” Andrew says. “The problem that we’re trying to solve is how to provide safe water to teach children to swim in, in municipalities that don’t have any swimming pools and don’t have the capacity to run them. The biggest concern for us is an outdoor swimming pool that community members can access and then drown in.”
The NSRI has already built offices for their lifeguards in shipping containers. According to Andrew, the containers make beautiful office spaces that are well ventilated and run on solar power.
“I thought we could take this to the next level. If we use a 12 metre shipping container, we can build a 5 metre swimming pool with a 1 metre addition for a pump and so on, and we could also have an office for our teacher, a change room for kids, and lockers for storage,” Andrew says.
“I’ve been speaking to Power Plastics for many years about safety around swimming pools as they are absolute experts in it. We also contacted swimming pool manufacturing specialists and came up with a whole bunch of companies who are really excited about working with us.”
Power Plastics will be providing the cover that goes over the pool. The main function of the cover will be to stop the evaporation and condensation inside the containers.
“The covers will cut out about 90% of the evaporation and condensation of water in the containers. Power Plastics will make them out of offcuts from other people’s pool covers that they are making commercially. It’s a really lekker way of using materials that would otherwise not be used and will certainly help us hugely with the evaporation and condensation. In water scarce areas we do not want to be losing water in the containers,” Andrew explains.
The first containers will hopefully go into production in the next few weeks, and all going well, the proof of concept will be tested somewhere close to Cape Town in November.
“The beauty of the container is that we’ll drop it in a safe area at a school, and then teach them Survival Swimming skills for free, and teach neighbouring schools as well. And when we get to a point where we have taught all of the children in that area, you can simply move the container to another area. We anticipate moving it every couple of years to where it is most needed,” Andrew says.
The perfect partner
As mentioned by Andrew, the Power Plastics team are no strangers to pool safety. In addition to being South Africa's leader in solid safety covers for pools, the company also launched the TopStep website in 2012. The site is a “one-stop” educational resource for all things related to pool safety and drowning prevention.
"For 30 years, we have been advocates of safety around swimming pools," Caryn says. "Not only do we develop and stand behind tried and tested safety covers, techniques and responsible behaviours, we have also been instrumental in sector education, assisting governing bodies with the development of recommended safety standards for domestic pools within various compliance frameworks.
"Our current solid safety cover with its tamperproof baton and ratchet system was originally created by Power Plastics Pool Covers and is still the best-selling safety cover. It has saved countless children's lives and because its design is so effective, the technology has been copied widely by competitors in the marketplace. While that may not be ideal from a business perspective, it saves even more lives."
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