Prevent a Drowning!
It’s up to all of us to know how to
1) recognize when a swimmer is in danger of drowning
2) know what action to take to save the swimmer’s life.
Bob Pratt gave an important presentation to ‘a standing room only’ crowd at the Quietwater Symposium at Michigan State University. As we move closer to the season of pool parties, lake swimming and boating adventures, it is important to become educated about what to look for and how to respond to water emergencies. Here is a summary of some of the information that Bob shared.
Critical Information for Preventing Drowning Deaths
- People do not recognize when a swimmer is in trouble. The phenomena of drowning does not attract attention. Most people think that a swimmer in danger of drowning will be waving their arms and shouting out for help. Wrong! Swimmers who are in the trouble cannot flail their arms. If they reach their arms out of the water, they will immediately sink under the water. Instead, they try to grab the surface of the water, and they can’t yell because they are gasping for breath. Humans automatically slip into what is called an Instinctive Drowning Response. Many people would look at such a swimmer and think that he or she is playing, but this swimmer is in serious trouble. You can learn more about this by viewing the following video: http://mariovittone.com/2011/07/video-of-instinctive-drowning-response/
- Keep a close eyes on your children when they are swimming. Sometimes parents may get distracted by other activity in the area, but drowning can occur within twenty to forty-five seconds of getting into danger.
- If you are hosting a pool party with children, use the Watch Card system to ensure that all swimmers are being observed. Make a Watch Card (index card, exc.) and give it to an adult who is willing to accept the responsibility of keeping an eye on all of the swimmers. If the Watcher has to leave the pool area, the card should be given to another competent and willing adult. This strategy will prevent drowning accidents.
- If you see someone in danger, you should grab something that floats and then head out into the water – a small cooler, a life jacket, a paddleboard, a boat cushion, etc. (It’s a good idea to always pack a floating device when you head out to the beach.) Making a rescue is very difficult if you don’t have some kind of floating device.
- Put your own safety first. Too often a would-be rescuer is not prepared to make the rescue (lacks floating device, strength, swimming ability, etc.) and finds him or herself in a losing battle with waves and deep water.
- Wear life preserver every time you are on your watercraft. People who wear a life jacket have a less than one percent chance of drowning is they fall into the water.
Bob demonstrated the use of a Belt Pack Personal Floatation Device that can be worn around the waist. It does not restrict movement and , in case of an emergency it is easily inflated by pulling the ring that triggers the release of CO2 from a canister. Most people do not wear a lifejacket when boating. They keep it on the deck and they think that they will be able to put it on when they are in the water. Bob explained that trying to put a life jacket on when you are in the water is extremely difficult.
- Standup Paddle Surfboards are considered watercraft so you have to have a Personal Floatation Device onboard. If you use your Stand Up Paddleboard at night, you need running lights. Standup Paddleboards are very good devices for rescues. The victim can rest on the board while being towed to the shore. Surfers and SUP surfers can be make a big contribution to drowning prevention across Michigan and in the Great Lakes.
Looking to get envolved? The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is an excellent resource for learning about water safety.