Safety from the Shore
Scanning any local lake, it would be hard not to notice that the water is dominated by younger kids and the shorelines by their parents. However, even when you are not the one swimming, it is important to familiarize yourself with water safety. If you are planning on supervising from the shore, always make sure your full attention is on your swimmers and know what signs of struggle look like.
What to Watch For
Despite what may come to mind when you think about what drowning looks like, it is often far less dramatic than most people think. In fact, at a crowded lake drowning might be the quietest and least noticeable event taking place. If you observe the following, a swimmer may be experiencing drowning or struggling in the water.
- Head bobbing. Trying to inhale and exhale often causes the head to be tilted back and bobbing up and down.
- Using arms to push water down and keep head above water. This prevents someone who is drowning from being able to wave for help.
- Glassy, unfocused, or closed eyes. Hair covering the eyes or forehead is also a sign someone is in need of help.
- Not advancing. A person may be trying to move forward, but is remaining in place in a vertical position.
- Silence. A person that is drowning often cannot be above water long enough to call for help.
It only takes 20 seconds to a minute for someone to be completely submerged, making them and their struggle even more difficult to spot. If you are planning on looking away from the water, be sure to designate a water watcher until you are able to reinstate your full attention.
How to Help
In the case where you notice any of these signs from your child or a swimmer, it is critical that you make decisions that will ensure their safety as well as your own.
Reach. Use your hand, leg, or another object to reach out to someone who is struggling in the water. Near the water you may be able to find fishing poles, oars or paddles, branches, or sticks. Once the person in the water is able to grab onto the object, you should carefully pull them in while being sure to avoid being pulled in.
Throw. By throwing a life jacket, tube, kickboard, water jug, buoy, or other floating object into the water, the person who is struggling can stay afloat.
Go in the water. Only trained lifeguards should attempt rescuing a drowning person by going in the water. This will prevent putting the person and others in further danger.