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Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

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  • Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

    Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning
    by MARIO on MAY 18, 2010

    Artículo en Español

    The new 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. 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 stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-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 fifty feet away, what the father couldn't recognize from just ten? 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 number two 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 ten percent 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 – 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 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 persons are n the water:

    Head low in the water, mouth at water level
    Head tilted back with mouth open
    Eyes glassy and 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 the back
    Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.
    So if a crew member falls overboard and every looks O.K. – 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, you get to them and find out why.


    disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Read the article at gCaptain.com.
    My new build http://s753.photobucket.com/albums/x...view=slideshow


  • #2
    Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

    This has got to be one of the most important posts I have ever read. The information is priceless.

    Thank You
    There are more fish taken out of a lake then ever were in it.


    • #3
      Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

      Fantastic article and important message to all of us.

      Thank you so much for posting.


      • #4
        Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

        Thank you for the important information.
        I love the smell of two cycle in the morning...It smells like...victory.


        • #5
          Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

          Outstanding! The rewards of being well versed and trained in water rescue are priceless!
          ACTA NON VERBA​


          • #6
            Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

            This happened to an 18 year old at our local swimming hole last year. 3 people were within 25 feet, watching him drown. Another dozen on a boat and the beach say they watched him drown and had no idea.

            Great post, worth printing out and posting in the lunch room or on the work safety board.
            Medford, WI


            • #7
              Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

              I think another thing to add to this is the dangers you might face when rescuing a potential drowning victim. I've pulled a couple of people out before, some where still in a panic mode, and one in particular (a child) had reached the point this article talks about.

              If the person is in a panic mode, they just might put you in danger of drowning simply because they are fighting for their lives. Just keep that in mind when you are approaching someone who is in danger.


              • #8
                Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                Thanks for posting this!


                • #9
                  Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                  Keeping them eye's open wider from now on,
                  thanks for the great post.
                  home is where we drop anchor


                  • #10
                    Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                    What a great post. If you were to help someone that you think is drowning, ask them if they're ok. If they can answer that's a really good sign since it means that they have enough air to answer and that they're alert enough to hear you, understand that you asked a question, and formulate an answer. Even if the answer is "no I'm not ok help me," it good that they can answer. The scary ones are people that just stare at you without saying anything.

                    If they can't swim then you should throw a cushion or some sore of flotation device with a rope attached so you can pull them in from the comfort and safety of your boat. If you do have to go after someone, you should first tell them to swim to you...and keep telling them. If you're in the water you need to swim away from them as they swim towards you- this is called self rescue and is one of the safest types of rescue. People think it's crazy that we would be 6 feet from someone and keep telling the "swim towards me" and we actually swim away from them; but, before you and the victim know it you're both on shore or at the boat.

                    If you actually need to swim up to someone, approach from their backside and grab them so the can't turn around. If they do turn around to face you, splash them in the face so you can have time to get behind them. Last, if someone grabs you and is pushing you under water like you're the flotation device, you can either splash them, pop them in the nose gently, or take a breath and dunk both of you under water. If you dunk someone that's not expecting it, chances are that they will let go of you to try to get back to the surface.

                    Sorry if this is a long post, but all of you know how important safety stuff is. I keep a square cusion with a 75' rope attached to it and I make sure to tell everyone on the boat where it is. I also keep a throw bag with 125' of rope that I can throw towards people. The bag has some weight and floats so it's great to use in the water. You might want to practice throwing them so you have an idea how to use them in an emergency.
                    Spicoli for president - Mr. Hand for V-P


                    • #11
                      Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                      This NEEDS to be made a permanent sticky
                      Bruce,Tina & kids
                      Romulus mi
                      Boating Checklist

                      Borrowed from a GREAT MAN we will miss you SpinnerBait_Nut.

                      "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"


                      • #12
                        Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                        EXCELLENT article!!!!
                        Last edited by QC; July 18th, 2011, 04:04 PM.


                        • #13
                          Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                          Second the vote to make this a sticky.
                          Why does a round pizza come in a square box?


                          • #14
                            Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                            HEY, Mods!! Count another vote for the sticky!

                            I've been in the local Rescue Squad over 17 years, and have attended more drownings than I care to remember. It amazes me just how oblivious people can be to their surroundings. The number of times I have heard "we thought he/she was okay"........

                            "I think it's time I move on like a rolling stone
                            'cause I've got all the broken dreams I can buy
                            Time to sell the ones I stole"


                            • #15
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                              Re: Drowning doesn't look like Drowning

                              This article is proof that when you think you know it all,,,,,,,,,,,you don't. Excellent post...........SS
                              BEER........Helping ugly people find true Love since 1862