Friday, July 9, 2010

Instinctive Drowning Response

Super swim fan Ahelee Sue Osborn posted this link on her facebook to an article about drowning that everyone should read. I teach a similar lesson to every swim unit that comes through our facility. I plan to laminate this article and post it on the wall. He does an excellent job of describing the Instinctive Drowning Response and why it does not look like what most people think they will see in a drowning situation.

From the article: "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)."

"So if a crew member falls overboard and everyone 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."

When we teach our Pre-K swim lessons, I take the time to give the parents a lecture on never letting their children swim alone even after they become good swimmers and even at their pool at home. We send home coloring sheets for the children with daily safety lessons on them and we ask the parents to please help to make sure they understand. I feel that the safety lessons are just as important for the parents to read as they are for the children.

I was lucky. I grew up on an island where the entire economy was based on commercial fishing. Swimming safety was a part of our curriculum from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Swimming was a priority that everyone agreed was a good investment. Our population was only 3000 people, and somehow they managed to pass a
multi-million dollar bond issue for a new facility when the pool I grew up in needed replaced. How is it that major cities can't pull that off?

In Southeast Alaska, families did not have swimming pools at their homes, which statistics show presents a lot more risk than living near a harbor or in a town on the coast. In my opinion, communities throughout the lower 48 need to start the swimming safety curriculum in pre-school, and swimming safety brochures need to be handed to parents along with the other information they hand out the day they check out of the hospital with their first born child. It is that important. We have a responsibility to educate children and parents alike, and that education needs to start as early as possible.

Give the article a read. Even a swim coach could learn something from it. You might want to print one for your facility as well.

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