INTRODUCING MARIO VITTONE, ON WATER SAFETY AND MARINE SURVIVAL. AS SUMMER STARTS LETS BEGIN WITH WHAT EVERY PARENT SHOULD KNOW.
DROWNING DOESN'T LOOK LIKE DROWNING:
Mario, image capture from his blog at: http://mariovittone.com/about-mario/
Mario Vittone is a retired Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer with an extensive background in marine safety, accident investigation, search and rescue operations and rescue swimming. He had long tours of duty as a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer and knows first hand what drowning looks like.He is also a writer for g-captain, which we link to in our News Section. Some time ago in the Diving Section of this blog , I described my first hand experience of what drowning felt like. After I discovered his blog I realized that even I didn't really know exactly what drowning looked like. Despite tours of duty as a search and rescue boat skipper both with the Coast Guard and with a state maritime police agency including pulling a few people out of the water , I actually didn't know. Until I read Mario's post on drowning I hadn't realized that all of those final situation reports and police incident reports that I had written over the years describing "rescues from drowning" were really rescue from "Aquatic Distress", a noisy splashy phase that precedes the onset of real drowning, and the quiet and deceptively calm looking phase described as the "Instinctive Drowning Response".
Three things that every parent, diver, and recreational boat skipper should know before heading to the pool, beach, or offshore this summer about the difference between Aquatic Distress and the Instinctive Drowning Response are these:
1. The Aquatic Distress phase doesn't always precede the Instinctive drowning response. This can be especially true in the case of Children. I can vouch for that from personal experience, my near drowning experience as a strong trained swimmer and commercial diver was a sudden on set event. When I try to think about it or write about it my focus and sharpest memory is on just how painful it is to have water in your lungs. Children, especially can drown while showing little sign of distress to the untrained eye.
2. A person in the grip of the Instinctive Drowning Response, the last that will be seen of them alive above water unless they receive rescue immediately, look strangely like someone calmly treading water. Ask! Are you OK? If they can answer they probably are. If not rescue had better be fast.
3. A person in the grip of the Instinctive Drowning Response is incapable of self help, they can't grab a life ring or line thrown to them. This brings up a whole host of issues if you are not a trained rescue swimmer or life guard. Certainly a small child drowning in four feet of water can be safely pulled out by an adult of normal height even one who is not a strong swimmer. In deeper water with an adult victim the unskilled rescuer ideally should be in a robust personal flotation device ( "Life Jacket" ) with a line attached and some one tending the line to pull both the victim and rescuer in. There is not always going to be time for all that. ( NOTE: We do not intend to give "advice" on in water rescues. We see the issue involved in attempting to rescue someone in the Instinctive Drowning Response and only tell you to try and think it out within your own capabilities and offer one example from real life that might be of some use. What follows is not a recommended practice: What follows is a possible life saving approach for a strong underwater swimmer with or without rescue swimmer training of some sort that I once tried in a pool.
I was swimming with a buddy in high school when I noticed that he was in trouble. I didn't have the concept of "Instinctive Drowning Response" vice "Aquatic Distress" in my head at the time though I had Red Cross Life Saving courses. Johnny was in the deep end with just his eyes and occasionally nose above water and somehow I knew he was in trouble. Only a teen aged mind could work this way, but I didn't want to embarrass him in front of the girls by subjecting him to the full blown Red Cross procedure. I dived in behind him, went underwater and grabbed him by the hips and using a strong kicking motion forced him up and a bit forward. This got his mouth and nose above water long enough to get a couple of decent breaths. I probably elevated his face by a few inches and moved him forward by about six feet toward the shallow end of the pool. I had to let go, come up for air, and repeat one time before he was flailing and kicking his way into the shallow end and standing up. I asked him and he told me that indeed he had been in "serious trouble". So we had a near drowning event and rescue in a populated swimming pool and only the victim and rescuer were aware of it. This is certainly not a procedure that we would recommend for in pool rescues, but it may suggest an impromptu procedure that a pair of strong swimmer divers or recreational boatmen might use in an emergency. The strongest swimmer approaches the victim from behind and dives under water and grabbing the victim by the hips kicks upward for as long and hard as possible forcing the face out of the water. The other swimmer approaches from the front pushing a life ring or other flotation device towards the victim. If the victim can get a few full breaths and you may break the "Instinctive Drowning Response" long enough to get the victim to grasp a flotation device and then they can be towed by a reasonably strong swimmer to safety.
The main point to keep in mind when throwing a life ring or extending a boat hook isn't an option is that a drowning victim will grab hold of a rescue swimmer with a death grip and literally try to climb up the rescuer out of the water. That is a lot harder to do when the would be rescuer approaches from the victims back. We really can't call any of these methods "recommendations". But here are some things we can recommend without hesitation:
1. EVERY PARENT, RECREATIONAL BOATER, AND DIVER SHOULD CLICK HERE :
http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/ TO READ THE FULL POST BY MARIO ON HIS BLOG
2. EVERY PARENT, RECREATIONAL BOATER, AND DIVER SHOULD LEARN TO RECOGNIZE AND BE ON THE WATCH FOR THE INSTINCTIVE DROWNING RESPONSE AS DESCRIBED IN DETAIL IN MARIO'S BLOG POST.
3. PARENTS, RECREATIONAL BOATERS, AND DIVERS SHOULD THINK ABOUT AND PRACTICE RESCUE TECHNIQUES FOR THOSE IN DISTRESS IN THE WATER WHO CAN NOT REACH FOR A LIFE RING OR EXTENDED BOAT HOOK. THERE WILL BE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO BE PULLED OUT OF THE WATER. HAVE A PLAN, PRACTICE. IF YOU ARE A STRONG SWIMMER TAKE A RED CROSS LIFE SAVING COURSE.
4. IF YOU ARE NOT A STRONG SWIMMER BUT ENJOY BOATING, BEACH GOING, SURFING, OR EVEN DIVING, TAKE SOME LESSONS AND BECOME A STRONG SWIMMER .
5. BUY AND WEAR HIGH QUALITY, COMFORTABLE PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICES APPROPRIATE TO THE ACTIVITY WHEN ENGAGED IN WATER SPORTS.
6. PARENTS, WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE IN THE WATER THEY SHOULD BE MAKING NOISE. CHILDREN NOT MAKING NOISE IN THE WATER MAY BE IN TROUBLE INVESTIGATE! PAY ATTENTION TO THE CASE EXAMPLE MARIO GIVES IN HIS BLOG POST OF TWO PARENTS ENJOYING EACH OTHERS COMPANY IN THE WATER WHILE THEIR DAUGHTER WAS QUIETLY DROWNING TEN FEET AWAY UNNOTICED, EXCEPT FORTUNATELY, BY A TRAINED STRANGER.
Finally as you know our mission is not to invent or provide any and all maritime related information but to organize, recommend, link, and present it. When we find an Internet source with more expertise than our staff can muster on a subject we recommend and link. We recommend Mario Vittone as a primary source of boating and water safety information and guide to authoritative literature on the subject. Here is a hyper link to his home page: http://mariovittone.com/ visit today, before the week end. We will be linking to Mario in our Various Boating, and Diving sections and in our Big Links Locker on the station Identification page that starts every publishing day. Mario can tell you more about avoiding drowning, or rescue of the drowning than any of us here can. What I can perhaps tell you as some one who has spent his professional life on the water, who spends his recreational time on the water, and who has experienced a near drowning is this. Drowning is painful and from the view point of the victim a seemingly slow distressful, and painful way to die. It is well worth avoiding and not to be simply accepted as part of the acceptable risk of water sports. It is worth taking pains in terms of training, and equipment expense to avoid. It is worth your time reading about how to avoid. You especially don't want your children to either spend a life time avoiding the joys of watery places, and water sports, or a maritime career but you definitely don't want them to drown. Become aware, get some training, get some equipment and make sure that doesn't happen. Now go read Mario's blog, and check in with it frequently this summer. http://mariovittone.com/