August 2018 General 

Swim Safety

Preparedness tips for household emergencies and neighborhood disasters, or, how to survive when those around you are Freaking Out!

When drowning doesn’t look like drowning. CDC statistics show in 10% of drownings adults are nearby but have no idea the victim may be dying. The “Instinctive Drowning Response” (IDR), so named by Francesco A. Pia, PhD, is what people do trying to avoid actual suffocation by water. Here’s how to recognize it:

  1. Most commonly, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The act of breathing must be fulfilled before speech.
  2. A drowning victim’s mouth sinks below and then reappears above the water’s surface with not enough time to exhale, inhale, and cry out before inhaling water into the mouth.
  3. Typically, a drowning person cannot wave for help or reach for rescue equipment. Instinct forces one to extend both arms laterally to press down on the water’s surface; struggling to keep mouth above water.
  4. From start to finish a drowning person’s body remains upright in the water with no supporting kick. The struggle may last 20 to 60 seconds.

On his blog, Mario Vittone (retired Coast Guard, rescue swimmer and boat captain) emphasizes that while the IDR doesn’t look like what most people watch for in their home pool or at the lake, surface drowning can be a quiet and undramatic tragedy. It can happen in the time it takes to read a short text on a cell phone. Very little splashing. No waving. No yelling. It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children ages 15 and under.

Instinctive Drowning Response video:

Vittone goes on to explain this doesn’t mean that a person yelling for help and thrashing around in the water isn’t in trouble. He calls it an aquatic distress experience. “These victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab a lifeline or a throw ring, etc.” As a pool monitor, look for these other signs of swimming distress:  ● Head low, mouth at water level, or, head tilted back with mouth open ●Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus, or, eyes closed ●Not using legs – vertical ●Hyperventilating or gasping ●Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder.

All parents or other swimming pool monitors are encouraged to take or renew their CPR certification through the American Heart Association or American Red Cross. Google “American Red Cross Home Pool Safety” for other important pool readiness and safety reminders.

“Preparedness tips for household emergencies and neighborhood disasters” is submitted to the Town Creek Newsletter by HOA member, Jess Wade. Now retired, Jess served for 10 years as Coordinator for the Dallas County Medical Reserve Corps, Public Health Preparedness and Bioterrorism Division of the Dallas County Department of Health & Human Services.

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