Water Safety, Do you know what 'DROWNING' really looks like?

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DaleH

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FYI, there have been a few drownings in this area recently, so I was reminded of a post that I once added to my Parker boat website when I was actively running it. It is my hope that this awareness may help save a life ...

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, by Mario on May 19, 2010

“The Captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife, as they had been splashing each other and she had screamed, but now they were just standing neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine ... what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his Captain kept swimming hard. “Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the two stunned owners. Directly behind them, not 10’ away, their 9-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the Captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this Captain know, from 50’ away, what the Father couldn’t recognize from just ten feet? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The Captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story.

Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for … is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – So named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the #2 cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents). Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25-yards of a parent or other adult. In 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).

“Drowning does not look like drowning!” – as Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

“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. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and instead perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”
(Source: On Scene Magazine - Fall 2006)

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue; they can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning, when people are in the water:

* Head low in the water, mouth at water level
* Head tilted back with mouth open
* Eyes glassy & empty – unable to focus
* Eyes closed
* Hair over forehead or eyes
* Not using legs – vertical
* Hyperventilating or gasping
* Trying to swim in a particular direction, but not making headway
* Trying to roll over on their back
* Ladder climb – rarely out of the water

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK – don’t be too sure! Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?”

If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30-seconds to get to them! And parents: children playing in the water make noise … when they get quiet … get to them fast and find out why!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author of the referenced article are not necessarily those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard.
 
I just watched a vid of a guy drowning in India and it was just like that. Little drama on the surface. It took about a minute before it was over. Freezing cold water is different. The shock takes your breath away. Trick is that it eventually always comes back. If you fall in and are becoming to incapacitated to climb out then just relax, keep gasping until you regain control of your breathing. It can take up to two minutes to regain so do not give up. Your breath will always come back if you don't freak out.
 
Thanks for posting.
People drown often around cold water.
Wear a PFD and dress for immersion.
 
RE-POSTING as a remnder ...

FYI ... RIP, our boatclub recently lost one of its long-time members last week in a drowning accident whilst swimming off their boat. I had first posted this many, many years ago when I owned the Classic Parker website, so this is a reprint of that ... as a gentle reminder to all.
 
If a child goes missing, the first thing you look for are bodies of water. Pools, ponds, rivers, ditches or anywhere there could be water accumulated. If you have children it is good to know where there are bodies of water nearby before they go missing. It can narrow your search down.
 
Just ran across this while reading a different post about night fishing. I can swim but not as well as most. I usually take off my life jacket when not under way. I am alone a lot of the time. Have stumbled in the boat a couple of times and also learning how to throw my cast net from the bow which I discovered is easy to get off balance in the boat.
Thank you for posting this. It’s a wake up call to keep my vest on. Maybe invest in one of the new ones that isn’t so cumbersome I’ve seen other guys where all day.
Anyway just wanted to say thanks for that and the knowledge of what to look for when someone needs help. I was just like you said thought I’d be a bunch of splashing/calls for help.
 
At 72 I have learned to move much more carefully in my boat. I also fish mostly by myself, not by choice, but wife is dissabled, kids all grown and moved away and friends either work ir in poor health. I rarely stand in my 16' Sylvan V hull, to easy to stumble over, I also grab onto to anything I can for stability. When I deploy my TM I am on my knees, not standing!! When I move around I am mostly in my knees to keep the weight low, and in all honesty, this boat has been the least tippy of any under 18' boat I have ever owned !! Also have learned after more than 60 years on the water to pick my days carefully. I also keep 4 lines attached to cleats drooped over the sides but the tag end wrapped in a holder that I could reach if went in the drink!
Also have a plan to get myself backin just in case, and yes I practice that a time or two each season. Unfortunately I have saw people drown, even helped to pull a body out in my younger days, something you will never forget, that keeps me alert whenever I am on the water!!
 
This is an excellent thread and it really drives home the point that drownings often will not present as someone in distress.
A while ago I attended a water safety and survival course which was designed for law enforcement officers.
One of the exercises we had to perform was treading water for 10 minutes while wearing our complete uniforms, duty rigs and ballistic vests.
There were 50 of us in the class but we were limited to 10 students in the water at a time.
So, 10 people in the water and 40 standing on the dock watching the 10 in the water struggle for 10minutes.
And what a struggle it was.
It was one of the most physically exhausting things I’ve ever experienced.
I was in the small handful of students who completed the exercise with no assistance from the instructors.
But, I got out of the water completely spent and was wobbly from the effort.
Students who were unable to keep themselves afloat had long poles extended to them by the rescue swimmers/safety officers and the vast majority of the class needed to be pulled to safety.
Remember that we all had about 20 pounds of gear trying to pull us down.
In an actual water immersion, every one of us would have jettisoned our gear and swum to safety but, for this particular exercise, we were told not to drop any gear the unless we were actually drowning.
There was one young cop in the group who was a brand new hire.
I think he had gotten out of the Academy something like two weeks before this training.
He was a really nice kid.
Soft spoken, with a shy demeanor and not someone who called attention to himself.
Easy to like because he was so quiet.
I had just finished my turn in the water and was recovering when he came over to me to tell me how great he thought I had done.
I was just concentrating on getting my heart rate down and trying not to vomit.
What I wasn’t doing was picking up that this kid was really scared of taking his turn in the water.
Apparently none of the instructors picked up on it either.
So, into the water he went without advising anyone of his fears or physical limitations.
I had recovered enough to watch him for about 30 seconds and I could see that he wasn‘t having an easy time of it so but I was still out of it so I turned away to focus on my own issues.
The new kid was, after all, surrounded by instructors and rescue swimmers.
What could go wrong?
I didn’t hear anything to indicate he was in distress.
No calls for help.
No thrashing or splashing.
Nothing.
He just quietly slipped under and was headed to the bottom.
One very experienced and alert instructor recognized the new guys struggle and jumped in the moment his head went under.
The only sounds I heard which indicated there was something wrong was the splash the instructor made when he hit the water followed by the splashes two safety swimmers made when they went in.
New guy was dragged out and flopped onto the dock like a caught fish.
But he had taken in a lungful of water and he needed to cough and convulse for a while.
That kid was headed to the bottom without there being any signs of a struggle and he would certainly not have come back up on his own.
This is very Scary stuff, indeed.
Be aware and stay safe everyone.
 
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Back when the kids were about 8 to 10 years old, the wife and I took them and their cousins to a waterpark in The Dells. We took turns watching the kids and swimming. After lunch we decided to go to the wave pool, I went first and it tired me out and I am a strong swimmer. The wife went in and it took a minute or so for the wave to get going. Once it was up to I could tell she had not timed it right and was going under. I could see it in her eyes but there was no flailing or vocal cues. I took lifeguard lessons as a teenager but never got certified. I tried to get a guard to help but they weren't seeing her. I jumped in and got to her quickly. She is just a litte woman at 4'10" and maybe 110#. When she realized I was there she grabbed onto me and started trying to push herself up while pushing down on my head. I have to say it took everything I had to get both of us out and once out it took the rest of the day for me to recover. None of the lifeguards even noticed what was going on. Needless to say the wife gave up on wave pools after that day.
 
FYI, there have been a few drownings in this area recently, so I was reminded of a post that I once added to my Parker boat website when I was actively running it. It is my hope that this awareness may help save a life ...

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, by Mario on May 19, 2010
I take my kids to the town pool and have now seen first hand what an almost drowning looks like. The first few times I saw the life guards blow the whistle and dive in I didn't even know who they were going to try saving. Finally last summer one kid was in the very middle of the pool by himself and it took the guards a few seconds to get to him. I got a solid 5 seconds to watch as this kid quietly went under, popped back up, shock his head around, went back under again before the guards got to him.

I have no doubt that if the guard didn't spot him going down he'd have died that day.
 
We had a drowning in a local pond, earlier this month. The retired trooper was ice fishing on a pond with a friend, that is about 2 acres. My son and I have open water fished it many times. Doesn't take much for sheet to go wrong.

Local Drowning
 
FYI, there have been a few drownings in this area recently, so I was reminded of a post that I once added to my Parker boat website when I was actively running it. It is my hope that this awareness may help save a life ...

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, by Mario on May 19, 2010

“The Captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife, as they had been splashing each other and she had screamed, but now they were just standing neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine ... what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his Captain kept swimming hard. “Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the two stunned owners. Directly behind them, not 10’ away, their 9-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the Captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this Captain know, from 50’ away, what the Father couldn’t recognize from just ten feet? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The Captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story.

Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for … is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – So named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the #2 cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents). Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25-yards of a parent or other adult. In 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).

“Drowning does not look like drowning!” – as Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

“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. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and instead perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response, people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”
(Source: On Scene Magazine - Fall 2006)

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue; they can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning, when people are in the water:

* Head low in the water, mouth at water level
* Head tilted back with mouth open
* Eyes glassy & empty – unable to focus
* Eyes closed
* Hair over forehead or eyes
* Not using legs – vertical
* Hyperventilating or gasping
* Trying to swim in a particular direction, but not making headway
* Trying to roll over on their back
* Ladder climb – rarely out of the water

So if a crew member falls overboard and everything looks OK – don’t be too sure! Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?”

If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30-seconds to get to them! And parents: children playing in the water make noise … when they get quiet … get to them fast and find out why!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author of the referenced article are not necessarily those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard.
I remember when I was a child. Our family's Got together to go to local swim hole, a lake. I had ventured out a bit past my shoulder height and did not know there was a ledge / drop off. Not a good swimmer I lost footing and started to slide down as I tried to get footing digging with feet I slide in sand, I went under twice no screaming but gasping for air each time I came up, trying to pull myself towards shore dragging my arms through the water > I recall-to this day over 55 yrs. later. The 3 time I went down I pushed forward towards shore when feet hit bottom and kind of like frog swam, the push was enough to get me back to where I could stand again and was at shoulder height I moved into shore and sat for some time as no one knew what had happened until they asked me why I was so quiet and not in water. To this very day I have taught my kids to swim& both swim like fish / my mom, would swim 1/2 way out into widest part of Hudson River, rest for a bit on one of the channel Bouyes' and then swim back to shore, "'ME NOW DAYS AT 65 I TRUST IN MY LIFE VEST!!!! "" A lot don't use em' / I rather look like a dork wearing a life vest and come home safe then find myself in a cooler somewhere! {Why something told me OR my reaction was wait till feet hit bottom and push I can only say God was saying it's not your time!} even though my kid's swim like athletes my kid's used them and so do my grandkid's. ********If you see it doesn't hurt to ask!! Are You OK?***********
Thank You, Dale H // I HOPE WHAT YOU STATED AND MY EPISODE TAKES HOLD IN BACK OF ONE'S MIND'S WHEN OUT ON WATER !AND OR NEAR IT! { LET'S ALL GET HOME SAFE } GOD BLESS!
 
I had an episode like that when I was a kid.

In my case, my dad saw exactly what was happening and got to me fast. Saved my life, for sure, as I didn't know how to swim at all. Immediately after that, all of us kids went to the Kensington Rec. center for swim lessons. NOT OPTIONAL. We WERE going to learn how to swim well, no whining or complaining. And we did.

All four of us boys became very strong swimmers, and I ended up becoming a surfer as a teenager, extremely comfortable in the water, even in heavy surf conditions. I am still very grateful to my dad for the rescue, and to both of my parents for making us learn how to swim, despite our fear and complaints.
 
Four years ago I was at Rehobeth Beach in Delaware swimming out past the breakers with a float tube, just drifting around. A woman came out to about 20 feet from me and asked if she could use the float. As soon as I handed it to her a lifeguard jumped off the chair and straight towards her. He had been watching her and thought she was in trouble. She wasn't panicked just yet but I think she had maybe 15 seconds before she would. She was fine, I don't know if she accidentally got into water over her head or what.
 
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