Vacations and Water Part 2 of 2

2016 November 2016 Skills at Sea Terry Sovil

By Terry Sovil from the November 2016 Edition

In the last article we talked about Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning. This time we’ll talk more about prevention, safety and drowning. Like most emergencies, we want to try to focus more on the prevention aspects but you must be ready to respond if something should happen. Here is a big list of basic tips. Feel free to print them, put them on your refrigerator door and review them from time to time like a checklist:

  • Be attentive, close supervision, no distractions like reading, talking or cocktails
  • Keep your pool area free of visible toys that may attract children
  • In Manzanillo the lifeguard means YOU
  • Never let people swim alone
  • Enroll in water safety classes
  • Learn CPR and basic first aid
  • Use Coast Guard, or similar, approved life jackets
  • Inflatable or foam pool toys are NOT substitutes for life jackets
  • Locations of drownings:
  • Most children ages 1-4 drown in home swimming pools
  • In natural water settings, including oceans, drownings occurred among those 15 years and older 57% of the time
  • Avoid alcohol around water as it is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water
  • Seizure disorders: if this includes you or family members, know how to deal with them
  • Know the meaning of colored beach flags
  • In Manzanillo:
  • RED indicates a rip tide or other hazard
  • YELLOW means conditions are rough
  • GREEN all clear (have never seen a green flag, no flag means “OK”)
  • Watch for rip tides: if you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore

Who is most at risk?

Males: Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male Children: Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates


Drowning is the act of dying by submersion and inhalation of water or another liquid. It is essentially death by suffocation.

People that are at, or close to, drowning, are unable to keep their head elevated and above the water, so they are not able to breathe properly. Because they cannot breathe, they are unable to shout or cry out. When you lack air, your body cannot perform the physical actions involved in waving or trying to attract attention.

Many think this is what drowning looks like. Splashing and thrashing is a sign of distress but a person like this can still take part in their own rescue. They can, and will, grab onto something. But if assistance doesn’t come Instinctive Drowning

Response will start automatically as they tire and breathing becomes harder.

Instinctive Drowning Response involves flapping or paddling with the arms attempting to raise the mouth to breathe by tilting the head back. This is an instinctive reaction, it is NOT consciously thought about or under control. When a person is not getting the air they need, they become oxygen deprived. With-out a good breath they are not able to talk or call out. This takes place for about 20-60 seconds during drowning and sinking underwater. Compare this to a person who can still shout and keep their mouth above water. They are in distress but not in immediate danger or drowning. They still need help how-ever, so get them assistance. Reach. Throw. Row. Go.

This is what you need to look for in a drowning where Instinctive Drowning Response has begun:

  • 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
  • They make no progress in the water
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder or put their arms straight out at their sides and push down on the water

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. 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.

The following link will take you to a short video clip on drowning. It’s short because this process only takes 20-60 seconds! After watching this first clip on YouTube, there is a second one that is not an actual video but a simulation that shows in detail how this process works.

Click this link for the “Recognize the signs of drowning”. It is 43 seconds long.

This second video is “What Does Drowning Look like?” It is 1 one minute 21 seconds.

Download the full edition or view it online

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