During a survey carried out by the Royal Life Saving Society, it was found that around 400 people accidentally drown in the UK every year. That figure means that one person on average drowns every 20 hours.
Per year, around 400,000 people worldwide lose their lives as a result of drowning, many of which occur due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the hazards associated with open bodies of water.
When faced with difficulties in water, it is natural human instinct to try and swim to safety, but is it the right thing to do?
How to Know When Someone is Drowning
You may think that it would be obvious to see whether someone has run into trouble in the water but that isn’t always the case. In around 10 percent of drowning cases, people nearby had no idea that the person was in trouble.
- There is actually often very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.
- Drowning people are often physiologically unable to call out for help.
- Because a drowning person’s mouth alternately sinks below and reappears above the surface of the water, the mouth is not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help.
- Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface making them unable to wave for help.
Some signs to look out for that somebody may be in need of rescue include:
- 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
- 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
So just because your children or others may look OK, it doesn’t mean that they actually are. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you all right?” 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.
How to Avoid Drowning – Should You Swim?
The best thing that you can do when facing difficulties in the water is to not try and swim at all, but to float or gently tread water. By doing this, it will be easier to control your breathing and remain calm.
By relying on our instincts alone, we increase the chance of water entering our lungs, increase the strain on your heart, cool the skin further and let air escape from any clothing, which then reduces buoyancy.
Anybody can actually float in an upright position with only their mouth and nose above the water to breathe.
- Take a deep breathe and fill your lungs with fresh air, relax, and float in the water with only the back of your head, and hands above the water.
- When you’re ready to take a breath, simply push down with your hands until your mouth is above the water and take a breath.
- Repeat every 10-15 seconds as necessary.
How to Rescue Someone From Drowning Without Risking Your Own Life
I don’t know anyone in their right mind that could just stand by and watch soneone drown without trying to do at least something but jumping straight in to the rescue is not the thing to do.
Back in May of 2012, Plamen Petkov was walking along a beach in West Sussex with his friend, when the mother of a child started yelling for help as her 5-year-old girl was swept out to sea on an inflatable ring. Plamen Petkov immediately entered the water to help the girl and swam her back to safety. The child was taken from Plamen alive while Plamen himself was brought unconscious to the shore. He could not be saved.
Follow the five steps below to save someone without putting your own life in danger:
- Avoid temptation – as tempting as it may be, don’t enter the water. Whatever caused the victim to need help could also happen to you.
- Call for help – call the emergency services before you do anything else, so help will be on its way. If there are other people around, ask them to call for help while you try to help the casualty.
- Shout, signal, instruct – keep your eyes on the casualty which you can do much easier from the shore. Shout to them and encourage them to stay calm and float. Remind them to kick their legs gently.
- Get something that will float – if there is a lifering or other rescue aid equipment nearby, throw it to the casualty. If there is no public rescue aid equipment, throw anything that will float.
- Safe rescue – get down on one knee or lie down before pulling the casualty to safety. Remember, even if your rescue attempts fail, emergency services are on their way.
It is important to understand that the only time that you should ever swim out to a drowning person is when you do not have access to any equipment which can be used to save their life, like a rescue buoy or if they are too far out.
If you absolutely must swim out to them, regardless of whether or not you have a buoy, grab the casualty under the arms and start to swim back to shore using your legs. Don’t allow them to grab you as they may end up dragging you both under the water.