It’s July. The schools are starting to close for the summer break and thousands of families are packing their bags for their annual holiday. Many flee to sun themselves and swim in warmer climes although the UK’s recent burst of gloriously sunny weather may have also inspired some vacation-ing closer to home.
At this time of year, an email is circulated at work, encouraging us to be safe and take care over the months ahead. There are the usual admonishments to drive safely, to stay vigilant outside our normal routines both in and out of the work environment. This year’s message really struck a chord for me.
The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!” Source: http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/
It would appear that drowning is not the waving, splashing, attention-getting event that we think it is. It is quiet, insidious and quick. It can happen in less than 60 seconds…while we watch.
Mario Vittone oversees the development of maritime safety and security products for VLinc Corporation and is a leading expert in drowning, sea survival and safety at sea. He consults and writes on water safety and in 2012, he published the article referred to above, painting a vivid picture of the risks we run as a result of our misconception about what drowning looks like.
In the 1970s, Dr. Francesco (Frank) Pia Ph.D discovered The Instinctive Drowning Response shown in the video below.
The misconceptions remain some 40 years later.
I grew up in a culture where swimming is taught if not in parallel with learning to walk, then at least as part of every primary school’s Phys.Ed. curriculum. And we learnt not just to swim but also to rescue and perform CPR as part of the higher swimming competency certificates in later years.
There is also a legacy of swimming in my family with my grandfather and uncle being swimming coaches and Mum swimming at State level for many years during her teens. Growing up we had pools in our various back yards and seaside holidays galore with many hours spent frolicking in the surf with Mum or Dad close by. My sister and I competed at swim meets both in and out of school and as I grew into adulthood, I spent many weekends with friends water-skiing and swimming in bays, rivers and lakes around Victoria.
Yet I carried the same misconception as many of you probably do. I never knew what drowning really looked like.
So with the Summer months gaining momentum in the northern hemisphere, it’s vital to get this message out there, to wave my virtual arms and make some noise on behalf of those who can’t.
Drowning is a quick and quiet killer and by knowing what to look for, you just never know whose life you might save.
So please share this post or any of the additional material below with as many people as you can.
The life you save may even be yours.