How to spot drowningContrary to popular belief, people who are drowning often do not the flail their arms, splash around and call for help, experts say. They usually can’t.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Contrary to popular belief, people who are drowning often do not the flail their arms, splash around and call for help, experts say. They usually can’t.
Because that image has been ingrained in the public psyche through television and film, people may not realize or even notice that someone is drowning.
Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event, said Mario Vittone, a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer who writes about boating and water safety on his blog.
To get an idea just how quiet and undramatic drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children 15 and younger — just behind vehicle accidents, he wrote, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About half of the children who drown are within 25 yards of a parent or other adult, he said. “In 10 percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening.”
There are different types of drowning, said Adam Bach, youth development director at The Y Family Center in Grand Forks, who oversees the Center’s aquatics program.
When people are in trouble in the water, “you can see flailing about,” he said, “but that’s more a sign of a person who’s panicking.”
Someone who is drowning physically can’t make noise or call for help because they’re using their energy to try to stay above water, he said.
Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, people in danger of drowning can only struggle on the surface for 20 to 60 seconds.
“We’re taught to scan every 10 to 15 seconds the entire body of water you’re in charge of because they’re not going to stay above water very long,” said Bach, a certified lifeguard.
Detecting a potential drowning is “definitely harder” at a lake, he said, “because you can’t see under the water, to see if they’re stuck on something.”
Although it may be difficult to resist, Bach recommends people not go into water to save a person in trouble.
“Their first instinct is to reach for you,” he said. “Going into the water yourself will only create more problems.”
Instead, he suggests using an object for that person to grab on to. “And make sure you’re not leaning out over the water. You need to have a base, so when they pull, they’re not going to pull you into the water and drag you down with them.”
Never swim alone
He emphasized the importance of never swimming alone.
“If something happens, another person knows you’re having problems and can call for help.”
Parents of young children should know it is possible to drown in 1 inch of water, he said. This is a dangerous situation, especially for little ones, who don’t have the strength to get themselves up.
In backyard pools, an adult definitely needs to be supervising, he said.
“Don’t let them swim alone,” he said. Another person can spot trouble if the parent isn’t paying attention.
“The faster you respond, the better the chance for recovery.”
Reach Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to email@example.com.