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Witness to a Drowning

Children have been successfully saved after being submerged for more than 50 minutes. As a witness you can make a big difference in whether a drowning becomes a rescue or a recovery. Here are a few simple steps to follow.

Be able to recognize a drowning when it starts. It takes 60 seconds for the average adult and an average of 20 seconds for children to drown. Drowning is a silent event, which is why it is so often missed. A drowning person cannot raise their hands above their heads because that would drive them underwater. They cannot yell for help, they can only struggle to inhale. All you might see is their face out of the water with periodic disappearances and appearances.

The moment you think someone may be in trouble look and see what is behind them, such as a house or tree, and mark the spot where you are, even if that means kicking a depression in the ground. This is very important because it could make the difference between the responding dive team finding the victim in 10 minutes rather than hours or not at all. At the same time yell for help. If no one is around then go quickly to call 911.

If you can throw something to reach the victim or to provide positive buoyancy do so, but do NOT get in the water to try to save the person. A panicked small child can drown even a strong?swimming adult. Two victims are never better than one.

If the person's head is still visible command them as loudly as you can "float on your back, float on your back, help is on the way!" While you are doing this keep looking at what is behind the victim on the opposite shore.

If you are on a boat and need to leave the area to call for help, attach a buoy to your anchor line and disconnect the anchor line from the boat before leaving, to record where you were when you saw the victim go down. A buoy can be anything that floats enough to hold the anchor line up, such as empty plastic bottles or boat cushions. We recommend that all boats carry 75?foot rescue throw rope bags. These are the most effect tools to reach someone in trouble.

If a drowning victim is brought to shore or a boat and medical help has not arrived, this is the time to perform your CPR skills. Unlike most other causes of cardiac arrest, drowning victims have a real chance of being resuscitated by basic CPR. Cold water drowning is the only cause of cardiac arrest that most medical helicopter transport systems will respond to. If possible, these patients should be transported to a trauma center.

If you accidentally fall in the water and experience the gasp reflex, you may not be able to inhale or exhale. If water is inhaled, the trachea can close (a laryngospasm). This will release itself, and the more you are able to relax the quicker you will be able to breathe. Try to see if you can touch bottom. This may sound ridiculous but people have drowned in shallow water, not realizing they could stand up. If you cannot call for help or make it to safety, then float on your back. Most people can float for long periods of time, but do not attempt to when they are panicked. Keep your head and arms in the water. Whatever you raise out of the water will serve as a weight to drive you downward. Most importantly, make sure you and your children have had water safety classes.

The key is drowning prevention. But if one does occur be prepared.

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