DROWNING RISK & RECOGNITION:
Many of us don’t know, what we don’t know.
THE U.S. MUST REDUCE THE ALARMING NUMBER OF PREVENTABLE DROWNINGS THAT RESULT IN DEATH OR MORBIDITY THAT OCCUR YEARLY.
A drowning at a pool or water park with lifeguards on duty is preventable and unacceptable. Every state must pass legislation that requires lifeguards to attend a seminar dedicated solely to Drowning Risk & Recognition Training every year prior to their first day of duty.
A lifeguard MUST be able to immediately recognize a person in trouble.
SwimSafe4Life advocates arming the public, as well aquatics personnel, with vital information on water safety and drowning risk & recognition. The higher the number of people that know and can spot a person in trouble or drowning the greater the chance of a victim’s immediate rescue and full recovery.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND NEVER HESITATE TO ACT!
This page is devoted to providing basic drowning risk & recognition information, current terminology and video clips of drowning. Its goals are that the public will:
- be able to recognize the signs of a person in distress.
- know the signs of a drowning victim.
- have the confidence needed to immediately alert a lifeguard or other professional the second they think someone needs help.
- understand that seconds count to a drowning victim, and seconds can determine the difference between death, life and quality of life after the rescue.
- understand to personally intervene ONLY if they can do so without any risk to their own safety and without becoming a drowning victim themselves.
- view videos depicting drowning. (PLEASE VIEW. THEY ARE AT THE END OF THIS PAGE!)
NO HUMAN BEING IS DROWN PROOF!
SwimSafe4Life strongly advocates swim lessons and encourages people especially children, with qualified adult supervision, to safely enjoy water as much as possible. Swimming is a skill that must be practiced!
There is much debate, discussion and confusion regarding water safety terminology. SwimSafe4Life is more concerned with the importance of getting drowning risk & recognition and life-saving information into the hands of as many people as possible, than terminology. However terminology is important, so terms and some clarifications are addressed later in this page.
A drowning victim WILL:
- quietly slip into the water, go directly to the bottom, and never surface or
- struggle at the surface of the water
A person in trouble MAY be able to wave, call out or splash. These victims are struggling to breathe and survive.
- The victim is likely in distress
- The victim may be able to reach for and grab a piece of equipment such as life buoy, rescue tube, hook, or something thrown or handed to them, such as a towel, kick board, a shirt, etc.
- The victim may be able to hold on to the item and be pulled to safety.
- CAUTION: Ample distance must be maintained between the rescuer and the victim! Many victims are capable of pulling their rescuer under the water putting the rescuer’s life at risk. ONLY personally intervene if you are able to do so with no risk to yourself. An additional drowning victim, you, MUST be prevented.
Many people in trouble WILL NOT be able to wave, call out or splash. These victims are struggling to breathe in order to survive.
DROWNING IS SILENT WITH VERY LITTLE OR NO SPLASHING!
The average person can hold their breath for approximately 25 seconds.
Signs of drowning :
- Arms are extending partially or fully out to the sides pressing down on the water.
- Head low in the water, mouth at water level.
- Head tilted back with mouth open.
- A child’s head may fall forward.
- Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus.
- Eyes open, with fear evident on the face.
- Hair may fall over the forehead or eyes.
- Not progressing or moving in any direction.
- Vertical in water.
- Horizontal in the water and appear to be doing the dog paddle or climbing an invisible ladder.
- Trying to roll over on their back.
- Floating face down at the bottom or near the surface of the water.
 Complied from recognized aquatic experts and organizations
IF IN DOUBT, GET THEM OUT!
Because seconds count it must be assumed that if you see anyone exhibiting even one of the signs described above, they need immediate help. You must act with no hesitation! Alert a lifeguard or other aquatic staff. ONLY intervene yourself if you can confidently do so without putting yourself at ANY risk, as might be the case with a small child in water below your chest.
HESITATING TO ACT MAY BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEATH, PERMANENT BRAIN INJURY OR FULL RECOVERY. ERRING ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION, IS THE ONLY ERROR YOU SHOULD EVER MAKE IN REGARD TO DROWNING!
Consequences for anyone pretending to need help MUST be:
- understood in advance of entering the water.
- immediate and substantive.
The surface struggle of a drowning person lasts 20 – 60 seconds before submersion.
Stages of drowning:
- Surprise or distress
- Gasping for air.
- Instinctive drowning response. (many of the signs above)
- Inhalation of water, followed by respiratory arrest.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Death, various degrees of permanent brain damage or full recovery. (death, morbidity or no morbidity)
LEARN CPR, but CALL 911!
The victim has the best chance when there is an early rescue, and if CPR is needed, it is initiated correctly and immediately.
HAVE AN AED WITH BOTH ADULT AND CHILD PATCHES LOCATED IN AN AREA WHERE ANY ONE COULD EASILY AND QUICKLY RETRIEVE IT.
In order to ensure safety, especially given the presence of water, it is best to have the 911 operator or a certified instructor make the decision on when to use an AED in a drowning situation. Many people have been saved at aquatics facilities after a heart attack, because an AED was on-site and quickly and effectively used.
There is NO time to wait for help. Calling and listening to the 911 operator is critical:
- if CPR is needed, it MUST be administered immediately!
- whether you have a current CPR certification, your certification is long expired or you have never had any training you MUST administer CPR.
- because the operator will give specific instructions on how to place the victim and how to administer CPR based on the estimate of age and weight of the victim.
- due to ongoing research, CPR recommendations are constantly being revised. So even if you’re currently certified, listen to the 911 operator.
- stay on the phone with the operator until the EMT’s arrive.
Why a 911 operator is so critical:
- Oxygen must get to the brain of a drowning victim immediately! A small mistake while administering CPR could limit the circulation of oxygen.
- All parts of the victim, arms, legs, etc. must be flat on the ground in order for compressions to be most efficient.
- Water and food may come out of the victim. (The operator will tell you that this is normal. You’re doing it right. This is not the movies. The victim won’t cough, sit up, and be fine!)
- The operator will ask you to describe what happened.
- The operator will then advise you on what to do next.
- CPR will most likely need to be continued.
- At any point while administering CPR if something changes, for example: a faint heart beat is felt, tell the operator.
Listen to the 911 operator – not bystanders. If a bystander is so knowledgeable, than he/she should take over! Never disconect from the 911 operator, even if a bystander claims to be a doctor and takes over CPR. You must monitor and watch that CPR is being administered exactly as the 911 operator tells you. Every second is critical. Take action, don’t hesitate and you could be the single most important factor that determined the final drowning outcome for the victim.
It is critical that anyone rescued after submersion, especially if CPR was administered, be taken immediately to an emergency room. It must be clear that is not an option.
(Current terminology in the aquatics industry can significantly differ from what is used in the media, by some medical professionals, by some hospitals, by the general public and even people who once worked in the aquatics industry but have been away for some years.)
Shallow water blackout: SwimSafe4Life feels that this is critical knowledge for EVERYONE, and since its danger is unknown to most people outside of the aquatics industry this term is addressed first. A shallow water blackout is normally triggered by hyperventilating followed by breathe holding underwater. The person can pass out underwater before the body’s natural reaction to breathe occurs. The body eventually reacts forcing a breath which leads to water inhalation. This all occurs with an unconscious victim at the bottom of the body of water. Even competitive swimmers, specifically during workouts, are in danger of falling victim to a shallow water blackout.
DO NOT ALLOW BREATH HOLDING UNDERWATER CONTESTS!
Drowning: The accepted, current definition as defined on The World Health Organization website states: “Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid. Drowning outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity. Agreed terminology is essential to describe the problem and to allow effective comparisons of drowning trends. Thus, this definition of drowning adopted by the 2002 World Congress on Drowning should be widely used.”
In other words, using the WHO definition, there are three outcomes for a drowning victim:
- The term drowning is the word that tends to still be used most often in the U.S. when the outcome of a drowning is death.
- Examples of how death is often described:
“The child down the street drowned in his backyard pool.”
- The often heard term “near-drowning,” no longer used in the aquatics industry, is the common term the public associates with morbidity.
- Examples of how drowning with the outcome of morbidity is often described:
“The teenager in the wheelchair was in a near-drowning.”
“She is a victim of a near-drowning, and that’s why she attends a school for children with learning
“He gets winded very easily when he runs because his lungs are damaged from a near-drowning.”
- Every year thousands of victims of drowning survive but are left with a wide range of permanent disabilities due to:
- BRAIN HYPOXIA from lack of oxygen to the brain. Brain hypoxia lasting too long for a full
recovery will leave the drowning victim with permanent brain damage.
- WATER IN THE LUNGS of a drowning victim can cause severe permanent damage to the lungs.
it may lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which can cause death or permanent damage to the lungs. The water in the lungs may contain organisms that will spread the central nervous system days to weeks after the initial event, some infections can result in death.
- BRAIN HYPOXIA from lack of oxygen to the brain. Brain hypoxia lasting too long for a full
The media often reports on victims of drowning with morbidity. “A child was sent via ambulance to a hospital after being found in a body of water. CPR was being administered as she was taken to the hospital. She is now in “stable” condition.
Stable condition DOES NOT equate to full recovery!
#3: No morbidity
- The words “almost drowned” is what is most often used by the public when the victim fully recovered.
- Examples of how drowning with the outcome of no morbidity is often described:
“He almost drown, but thankfully the lifeguard got him immediately.”
“My neighbor almost drowned in her backyard pool. She was found floating face down in the water, but her mom knew CPR and saved her.”
The RID Factor as a cause of drowning:
pioneered by Dr. Francesco Pia, PhD
Recognition – Lifeguards failure to recognize victim in need of immediate rescue
Intrusion – Secondary duties like maintenance tasks intrude on lifeguards primary responsibility of watching out and protecting patrons
Distraction – Lifeguards are distracted from surveillance by talking to friends and other lifeguards or non-surveillance interaction with patrons, such as location of restrooms or towels.
Secondary or Dry Drowning: THESE TERMS ARE NO LONGER USED. The full scientific study and conclusions will be provided here.
However, if you have been involved in a submersion and something doesn’t feel right, or if your child has been swimming and you feel your child is not acting right, feeling well, coughing, you should call your doctor or do what you feel is necessary.
Links to only few of the many videos available online:
Young boy drowning in front of a lifeguard:
(struggling below the surface, administered CPR – outcome unknown)
Signs of Drowning:
(Dr. Francesco Pia’s Instinctive Drowning Response)
Recognize the Signs of Drowning with Mario Vittone:
(simulation of signs of drowning)
Young Child in a Busy Wave Pool:
(actual drowning with no morbidity – quickly rescued)
Toddler falls in fountain:
(warning: difficult to watch, outcome of child unknown)
Non-Swimmer slid straight to the bottom of a public pool and went unnoticed for two days:
(animation of an actual event)
CONTINUE TO EDUCATE YOURSELF!
PLEASE share the live-saving information on this page!
Safety First Water Supervision Instant Access Manage Your Team
Watch our intro video for SwimSafe4Life
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