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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Signs of Drowning isn't like in the Movies

In studying this life style, a critical area of study is water safety. Within water safety, when you boil it down, there are a few key bad situations: drowning and hypothermia. It is the former that is the subject of this post as my researching into it revealed some interesting tidbits, the key among them is that drowning does not in any way look like what is seen in the movies.

In 2011, in the USA, it is predicted that 375 children will die drowning while being 25 yards or less away from an adult and that 37 of these kids will drown and the adult will see it actually happen but unaware of the signs of drowning!

This scary stuff, along with the signs of drowning and a ton more real deal sea safety information, is available from a rescue helicopter swimmer's personal website MarioVittone.com. Mario's candid raw style is fantastic.

From the Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning article on Mario's site, the key reason that drowning doesn't look like drowning is that the primary philological capability that trumps all others is respiration and when drowning, the entire body shuts down except for this one critical operation. Therefore, things like yelling, trashing, etc. just simply isn't possible. So what does it look like? Mario shares Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D, description from a Coast Guard magazine. It includes the following 5 key signs (as quoted for Mario's site which quotes the magazine article):

  • Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  • Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  • Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  • Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  • From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.
Powerful stuff. Please forward and share.

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