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Water, The Silent Killer

June 15th, 2012 | by admin admin | in Safety Advice |    0   comments

What does drowning look like? Arms flailing, head bobbing up and down. Gulping air, screaming for help. Desperation. Panic. These are the images burned into our minds by countless TV shows and movies. Surprisingly, in real life, a person drowns quietly. Very quietly.

In Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, Mario Vittone, a U.S. Navy and Coast Guard member, describes the instinctive drowning response: body upright, arms outstretched and pressing downward, head low in the water, mouth briefly rising for air. The struggle lasts 20 to 60 seconds. Often without a sound.

Vittone notes that of the estimated 750 children under age 15 who will drown in the US this year, half will die within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. Ten per cent of the time, the adult watches the child drown, not realizing what is happening.

Some Canadian statistics from the 2011 National Drowning Report (pdf):

  • From 2005 to 2007, about 500 Canadians died from drowning, about 1.5 deaths per 100,000 population, per year. That’s up from the 2004 low of 433 deaths, but still down compared to the 1990s.
  • More young adults (aged 18 to 34) are drowning, up 32 per cent
  • More baby boomers (aged 50 to 64, ) are drowning, up 14 per cent
  • Bathing/bathtub fatalities are up 41 per cent
  • Eight out of 10 drowning victims are male, across all age groups (this is true in the U.S. as well)
  • Half of all fatalities occur at night and on weekends
  • Fatalities among young children and boaters are trending down

Accidents can happen while you’re swimming or even walking near water. As the weather warms up, it would be wise to brush up on your water safety knowledge.

And remember to watch for the signs of drowning, per Vittone:

  • 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 [sic]
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.

If someone is quiet, ask if they’re OK. If they respond, they probably are.


Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, gCaptain

2011 National Drowning Report, prepared for the Lifesaving Society by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre of Canada

Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.


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