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Catalonia to launch an inflatable buoy to help lifeguards rescue swimmers

The project could help reduce the drownings at Catalan beaches, which have doubled this year


10 August 2017 05:14 PM


Alan Ruiz Terol | Barcelona

If you ever get into difficulty in the sea, the difference between drowning and surviving could largely depend on the lifeguard’s ability to rescue you — and it could be a matter of seconds. A quick rescue buoy, which is currently being tested at Catalan beaches, could make a big difference for many people’s lives.

Unlike the traditional rescue buoys, which are rigid, the “Quick Rescue” buoy is inflatable. When folded it is almost pocket-size and it can be easily inflated by pulling a string. That makes it easy for a lifeguard to attach it on their belt while swimming and then inflate it in the water next to the person being rescued.

This system allows the lifeguard to swim faster and therefore reduce the response time when facing an emergency, according to the regional authorities of Girona, a Catalan seaside province north of Barcelona.

There are two different models being tested: one is aimed at people who are conscious while being rescued, and another will be used when the person has lost consciousness. The latter will keep the victim’s head above water, thus allowing the lifeguard to maneuver easily.

The “Quick Rescue” buoy was developed by the University of Girona (UDG) and a team of sea rescue experts. It has not yet been used in real life situations, but if the tests prove successful it will be introduced at Catalan beaches in the summer of 2018.

Drownings double

At least 18 people have died this summer at Catalan beaches, more than twice compared to the same period in 2016, during which 7 people drowned.

Over a particularly bad stretch, four people died in less than 24 hours just between Sunday and Monday alone this week.

The number of sea rescues by lifeguards has increased by 31%, 144 up to last Sunday. Of those, 19% ended in the rescued person’s death. In addition to the 18 people who died on the coast, 8 people died in swimming pools and 3 in rivers and lakes.


  • The “Quick Rescue” buoy curentlly being tested in Catalan beaches

  • The “Quick Rescue” buoy curentlly being tested in Catalan beaches