How to spot signs of drowning

It is important to be able to recognise when someone is in trouble in the water, here is a great post from FamilySafety about spotting drowning signs:

Drowning in real life is so undramatic that 10% of accidental drownings happen within 20 meters or less of people who could have helped. Drownings sometimes occur when adults are supervising; even when the adults are in the water with the children.

Good to know:

  • Children don’t make noise as they go underwater — they sink quietly
  • Children under the water lose consciousness in two minutes
  • Brain damage occurs at five minutes
  • 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. Drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements.
  • Drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs
  • Teaching your child to swim does not make him/her “drown-proof.”
  • Air-filled flotation devices like water wings are fine in the swimming pool. But if you are participating in water sports or swim in open water, use an approved life vest instead.
  • The victim’s fight for survival may make you a victim. Several dozen of people drown while trying to save someone else. Just because someone is a good swimmer does not mean they are capable of safely performing a rescue. Even a professional doesn’t just run out into the water; the first thing he does is call for backup.

The steps of rescuing:

Drowning happens in a matter of minutes, so if there’s no lifeguard around, you’ll have to perform the rescue yourself. If you’re prepared, then you’ll be able to make a real difference in someone else’s life.

1) Identify a drowning victim.

  • An active drowning victim is conscious and struggling.
  • Unable to call for help
  • Thrashing arms
  • The person is not making forward progress, but is bobbing vertically in the water.
  • Body is very low in the water, with the mouth just above the surface. The person’s head goes from being submerged in the water to only briefly coming out before going under again.

2) Shout for help and have someone call emergency services immediately (especially when the victim is floating face-down).

3) Get a flotation device, if available. This will allow the victim something to hold onto once he/she is reached. Remain calm and figure out how you can best rescue the person in need. This is based on where the person is located and what type of body of water he or she is in.

– Is the victim near the edge of a pool, pier or dock? If a person is close enough to grab an arm, leg, paddle, shirt, or other similar item. Lie face down on the edge of the pool or dock. Spread your legs to maintain a stable position. Do not extend yourself beyond a strong position of good balance. Reach out to the person while yelling, “Grab my hand!” It may take a few seconds, so don’t panic if they don’t hear you or see your hand right away.

 – Use a ring buoy or other easy to throw rescue device to reach a victim further away from the shore; this is also used in an ocean rescue. Loosely coil the rope in your non-throwing hand. Step on the end of the rope so that you do not accidentally throw the ring away. Use an underhand motion to throw the ring. Allowing the rope to uncoil freely from your non-throwing hand. Aim near the victim, but try not to strike him directly. A good goal is to throw the ring just past the victim, then pull it to him or her with the rope.

4) Proceed with the rescue. Stay calm and focused. People who panic are more likely to make mistakes and may also stress out the victim. Call to the victim that you’re coming to his or her aid.

Swimming out to rescue a water-immersion victim is risky. Drowning victims are often thrashing wildly and pose hazards to their rescuers. They may attempt to climb the rescuer, trying to get themselves as high out of the water as possible. This simply pushes the rescuer under the water.

How you can rescue safely? 

1)   When swimming out to rescue someone, bring a towel or shirt with you. Instruct the victim to grab the object, and tow him or her to shore. This allows you to remain a safe distance from the victim.

2)   Place your arms under the victim’s. Once you get behind the victim, place your arms under each of the victim’s armpits. Bend your arms back so you are pointing at yourself and hold tight. If you are using a flotation device, keep it between you and the victim, across your chest.

3)   Dive in with a buoy.

You (or whoever is supervising children in and around water) should know how to swim, how to perform CPR, and where the nearest phone and life preservers are in case of an emergency.

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