90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Two Florida physicians have come up with a device to prevent drownings

The Florida Department of Children and Families says more children under five perish by drowning in Florida than in any other state. (Ucpage/Getty Images /IStockphoto)

They are beta-testing the device after witnessing tragedies caused by drownings and near-drownings.

The Florida Department of Children and Families says more children under 5 die by drowning in Florida than in any other state.

This is something pediatrician Dr. Phillip Matar knows firsthand. Back when he was a medical resident, he was part of a team that worked to revive a little girl who had drowned in the family pool. The girl didn’t survive and when her mom heard she had died, the mother had a seizure and had to be taken away to Bayfront Hospital, across the street.

Matar said that incident changed his life.

“And I kind of made a promise to myself at that point that I would do everything I could to figure out how to stop kids from drowning in pools, because we saw it over and over and over again, in our pediatric residency. And you know, this happens every single day across the U.S., but specifically, so here in Florida,” Matar said.

His friend, Dr. Ramy Gali, also worked to help a 16-year-old in a near-drowning, who survived but suffered traumatic brain damage and would never be able to live independently.

Logo for drowning prevention device, Pool Knight

The two physicians teamed up to create a drowning-prevention device. They called it Pool Knight.

They worked with a former Lockheed Martin engineer, David May, to design it.

Matar said while the focus is on preventing young children from drowning, Pool Knight will also work with older children and vulnerable adults.

“A 16-year-old, who is 6 feet tall, but he has a seizure disorder, or he has Type 1 diabetes, and should never be at the pool by themselves, you can actually through our app, activate the facial recognition technology. And with one screenshot of that individual’s face, you can program specific parameters for specific people,” Matar said.

Pool Knight has been patented in the U.S., Canada and Australia and uses infrared heat sensors, motion sensors, video, audio, and artificial intelligence with facial recognition to keep vulnerable people and animals out of the water, by sounding an on-site alarm and sending alerts to connected mobile phones through a dedicated app. But it’s not available yet.

“Yes, we’re not on the market yet. And the reason that we’re not there is, this is truly life or death in terms of the device doing what we want it to do,” Matar said. “And so, we would not feel comfortable kind of having this out there unless we have a very close to a year’s worth of testing, which is what we will have in the next four months or so.”

He said at that point, they’ll be comfortable saying it’s ready for market. And they already have manufacturers ready to produce Pool Knight on a mass scale.

There are other resources and tools to prevent drowning. Among them, the wearable WAVE device, designed for children to use while swimming. Read more about it here.

Here are some other websites which provide water safety information:

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity