The Poseidon Adventure
New aquatic safety system is first for independent schools
November 20, 2008
-- Dwain lay motionless, submerged for no more than a few seconds before the alarm sounded, signaling a problem in the deep end of the diving pool. Athletic Director Mike Kuta responded quickly, dragging Dwain to the deck of the pool, then grinned with satisfaction.
Had this been an actual rescue, Kuta may not have reacted as calmly and casually. In fact, “Dwain” is a 25-pound blazing yellow, dummy torso, used for training on the new Poseidon System, a water safety alert program that is meant to augment the lifeguard staff and other trained personnel. Poseidon consists of six pairs of cameras, positioned above and below water and aimed at precise angles. Each camera’s “eyes” can detect motion (or lack thereof).
When the alarm sounds, coordinates that are clearly marked poolside are posted on an electronic screen similar to a scoreboard. By pinpointing the exact “trouble spot,” the system helps lifeguards gain precious reaction time when responding to an emergency.
“This does not replace a competent life guard; it enhances the aquatic safety program,” says Kuta. “It is a third eye that never blinks.”
During the training the aquatic staff underwent last fall, Kuta emphasized the importance of including Poseidon as part of the daily safety checklist. To date, 17 staff members have been trained and another six are scheduled for training this winter. Kuta acknowledged that the system set off a number of false alarms in the beginning, but adds that Poseidon will become “smarter” over time. The system uses mathematical algorithms and patented camera, texture, and stereo-vision techniques that “instruct” the central processor to act accordingly in real time.
“False positives will become drastically reduced, but no matter what, we will not become complacent. We check out everything,” Kuta said. “Having this type of system in place actually makes our lifeguards sharper.”
Poseidon “went live” in late September, making Phillips Academy the only independent school in the nation to have such a sophisticated aquatic safety system in place