As summer approaches and temperatures rise, many people are drawn to the refreshing allure of water activities and swimming to cool off, unwind, and have fun. Whether it’s diving into the crystal-clear waters of a pool, riding the waves at the beach, or exploring serene lakes and rivers, water sports offer a thrilling escape from the heat. However, amidst the excitement, it is crucial to prioritize water safety and drowning prevention to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. In addition to learning drowning First Aid and drowning CPR in case someone were to drown.
Drowning is a serious and preventable tragedy that claims numerous lives each year. In the United States alone, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths among children aged 1 to 4 years old, and the second leading cause for children aged 5 to 14 years old, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As a CPR and First Aid Instructor and a medical student, I know understanding the risks and taking proactive measures to prevent drowning incidents can make a substantial difference in saving lives and ensuring the safety of individuals participating in water activities. Especially when working with children.
By equipping yourself with knowledge about water safety guidelines, recognizing potential dangers, and learning rescue techniques, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and others enjoying water sports and swimming during the summer season.
In this article, we will discuss essential water safety tips to help you stay safe in and around the water, while also providing insights on the importance of drowning prevention through:
- Water Safety Guidelines
- How to Recognize if Someone is Drowning
- How to Rescue Someone Safely Who is Drowning
- Proper CPR for a Drowning Victim Once Out of The Water
- Learn to Swim and Improve Water Skills
Water Safety Guidelines
Before engaging in any water activity, be aware of the current conditions and potential hazards. Pay attention to weather forecasts, water temperature, currents, tides, and any warning signs or flags at the beach. Avoid swimming in rough waters, strong currents, or areas with underwater hazards like rocks or debris.
Stay within Designated Swimming Areas
Swim only in designated areas that are supervised by lifeguards whenever possible. These areas are typically safer, as they are regularly inspected for hazards and have trained professionals present to respond to emergencies. Respect any posted signs and instructions from lifeguards to ensure a safe swimming experience.
Be Cautious of Water Depth and Diving
Always assess the water depth before diving in. Diving into shallow water can lead to serious head and neck injuries. Make sure the water is deep enough and free from obstacles before attempting a dive. If uncertain about the water depth, opt for feet-first entry instead.
One of the most effective ways to prevent drowning is to learn how to swim confidently. Enroll in swimming lessons or programs that teach basic water skills and stroke techniques. Regular practice and improvement of swimming abilities can significantly reduce the risk of accidents in the water.
Supervise and Buddy Up
Never swim alone, especially in natural bodies of water. Always swim with a buddy or under the supervision of a lifeguard. Having a swimming partner enhances safety by providing mutual support and assistance if an emergency arises. Children should always be supervised by a responsible adult who can actively monitor their activities in the water.
Wear Appropriate Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
For water sports and activities, such as boating, kayaking, or paddle boarding, it is crucial to wear properly fitted personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life jackets. PFDs can provide buoyancy and keep you afloat in case of an accident or fatigue. Ensure that the PFD is approved by relevant authorities and suitable for the specific activity.
Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption
Avoid consuming alcohol before or during water activities. Alcohol impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents and drowning. Stay hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages and save alcoholic drinks for after you are done with water-related activities.
Educate Yourself on CPR and First Aid
Having knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic first aid techniques can be lifesaving in water-related emergencies. Enroll in one of our CPR and First Aid courses across Georgia and South Carolina to learn essential skills that can make a difference in critical situations. Prompt and effective response can greatly increase the chances of survival.
Teach Children about Water Safety
Educate children about water safety from an early age. Teach them to swim, respect water rules, and understand the potential dangers. Emphasize the importance of always swimming with a buddy and seeking adult supervision. Encourage open communication about water safety to instill a sense of responsibility and caution.
Child Care facilities can help teach about water safety and prevent drowning by sending home resources to the parents like this one in addition to teaching about water safety in the classroom.
How to Recognize if Someone is Drowning
Recognizing the signs of drowning is crucial for early intervention and swift action. Contrary to what is often depicted in movies, drowning is often silent and can easily go unnoticed if you don’t know what to look for.
Drowning Signs and Symptoms:
- Silent Behavior: Drowning victims are typically unable to call for help or shout due to the body’s instinctive response to gasping for air. They may appear calm on the surface but struggle beneath the water.
- Vertical Position: A person in distress may be unable to kick their legs or wave their arms. They might be vertical in the water, with their head tilted back, struggling to stay afloat.
- Ineffective Movements: Drowning individuals may show weak or erratic movements in their attempts to stay above water. Their arms may be extended to the sides in an instinctive effort to push down on the water surface.
- Absence of Vocalization: Drowning is typically a silent event. If someone is unable to call for help or is making weak gasping sounds, they may be in immediate danger.
- Panic or Distressed Expression: A person in the early stages of drowning may exhibit signs of panic or distress. However, this can quickly transition to a more passive and quiet state as their energy is depleted.
In this video, they share how to recognize people in need of help from drowning in addition to how to help without putting yourself in danger.
How to Rescue Someone Safely Who is Drowning
Now that you know how to recognize the signs of someone who is drowning, knowing how to respond quickly and effectively can make a life-saving difference.
Follow these steps and watch this video for guidance on how to assist a person who is drowning:
- Assess the Situation: Before jumping into action, evaluate the surroundings and ensure your own safety. If possible, call for help or alert a lifeguard while you prepare to assist the person.
- Reach or Throw, Don’t Go: If the person is within arm’s reach from the edge of the pool or shoreline, extend a long object such as a pool noodle, branch, or rope for them to hold on to. If that’s not possible, throw a flotation device or any buoyant object that can help them stay afloat. Avoid entering the water unless you are a trained rescuer.
- Use Rescue Equipment: If there are lifebuoys or other rescue equipment nearby, throw them to the person in distress. These flotation devices can provide them with the necessary support while keeping you at a safe distance.
- Perform Reach-and-Tow Rescues: If you are trained in water rescue techniques, you can perform a reach-and-tow rescue. Lie down on the edge of the pool or use a secure flotation device, extend your arm or a long object towards the person, and encourage them to hold on. Then, carefully tow them back to the safety of the pool edge or shoreline.
Enlist the Help of Others: If there are bystanders nearby, instruct someone to call emergency services while others assist in the rescue. Coordination and communication are crucial during water rescues.
Proper CPR for a Drowning Victim Once Out of The Water
Once the person is out of the water, place them on their back on a hard flat surface, preferably on the ground. Check for signs of consciousness and breathing.
If the drowning victim is not breathing or is unresponsive, do the following:
- Call 911 immediately and ask for an AED if available.
- Start with 5 breaths. This may help them start breathing again since it can trigger the brain to realize it now has access to oxygen again.
- Immediately begin CPR. If you are trained in CPR, deliver chest compressions and rescue breaths until emergency medical personnel arrive or the person shows signs of life.
- Every second counts in a drowning emergency.
In this video, she walks through these steps of how to respond once you get the drowning victim out of the water.
Note: If you are not trained in CPR, the emergency dispatcher can guide you through the process until help arrives. We highly recommended taking a CPR and First Aid course to be prepared for water-related emergencies.
Learn to Swim and Improve Water Skills
To be most prepared for water-related drowning incidents, the first step is to be trained in CPR. If you are in Georgia or South Carolina and you would like to learn CPR and First Aid, sign up for one of our courses.
Finally, you and your children can enroll in swimming lessons, or if you work in the Child Care industry encourage your parents to enroll their kids in swimming lessons. Swimming is a life skill that provides individuals with the ability to navigate water environments safely. It builds confidence, promotes physical fitness, and allows for participation in a wide range of water sports and recreational activities. For children, early exposure to swimming lessons establishes a foundation for lifelong water competency. Find a local public pool center or community to get started!