Perhaps you’ve seen the posting on Facebook about how drowning people don’t look like they’re drowning, and thought “How could that be?” You would think it would be obvious when someone needs help.
Since you will probably be near a pool, lake or ocean at some point this summer, let’s review some safety tips for you, and how to detect if someone else is in danger.
The American Red Cross has the most extensive list of water safety recommendations based upon location (beach, pool, lake) and activity (water park, boating, rafting).
Here are their general water safety tips:
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim.
- Always swim with a buddy; never swim alone. The American Red Cross has swimming courses for people of any age and swimming ability. To enroll in a swim course, contact your local Red Cross chapter.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Read and obey all rules and posted signs.
- Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (PFD) when around the water.
- Watch out for the dangerous “too’s” – too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
- Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
- Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.
- Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
- Use a feet-first entry when entering the water.
- Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
- Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance, and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
- Know how to prevent, recognize, and respond to emergencies.
If you’re in the ocean or a lake, be aware of undertow currents. They will pull you straight out to sea, or to the middle of the lake. To counter this, swim perpendicular to shore until you’ve broken free from the current.
Also, be aware of weather. If a lightening storm moves in, move to cover quickly.
Be Prepared To Watch Out for Others
Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross and sign up for a class in First Aid and CPR. You never know when you will need these skills.
Please note: if you are not trained to rescue someone who is drowning, call immediately for help. Unfortunately, the drowning person could drown both of you during the rescue.
The following guide was published in 2006 by the U.S. Coast Guard:
- Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
- Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
- Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
- Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
- From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.
Additional signs of someone potentially drowning from the blog of Mario Vittone:
Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
- Eyes closed
- Hair over forehead or eyes
- Not using legs – Vertical
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
- Trying to roll over on the back
- Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.
Finally, we can’t repeat this enough, watch your own children. Don’t leave another child to watch them. They might not be prepared for how to react if something bad happens.
Will you be going to a water park, the ocean or a lake this summer?