Aquatic Emergencies:Know how to safely respond

Know how to recognize an emergency. Many water-related emergencies can happen quickly and silently. Can you tell if a swimmer is in distress or is drowning? A distressed swimmer or drowning victim needs help immediately!
A swimmer in distress may still try to swim but make little or no forward progress. If not helped, a swimmer in distress will soon become a drowning victim. An active drowning victim may be vertical in the water but unable to move forward or tread water. An active drowning victim may try to press down with the arms at the side in an instinctive attempt to keep the head above the water.
A passive drowning victim is motionless and floating face down on the bottom or near the surface. Never assume that a swimmer who appears to be in distress is joking or playing around.
Once you are able to recognize an aquatic emergency, you need to know how to respond. If someone is missing, always check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability from drowning. If present, always alert the lifeguard in the event of an emergency. Have reaching and throwing equipment on hand, such as ring buoys or reaching poles, or even a water jug tied to a rope or a broom. Know how and when to call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
If someone is in trouble in the water, reach and/or throw. Do not go. Reach out to the person using any available object that will extend your reach, such as a pole, an oar, a tree branch, a belt or a towel. Brace yourself to keep from losing your balance. Throw anything that will provide the victim support, such as a foam cooler or inner tube. A floating object with a line attached is best so you can pull the person to safety.
If the water is shallow and calm, put on a life jacket, wade into the water and reach toward the person with a pole, branch, life jacket or other object. Do not enter the water if a current or waves make wading dangerous. Keep yourself safe. In most cases, only trained professionals should enter the water to perform a rescue. Enroll in Red Cross water safety, first aid and CPR courses to learn what to do.
Always remember that no one is “drown-proof.” Participation in any swim lesson program cannot “drown-proof” your child, despite what some may claim. No child is ever “drown-proof” or water safe. Water safety and learn-to-swim courses should be age-appropriate. Learning to swim well takes time. Do not expect that children will learn to swim in one set of lessons or even in one season.
Even a seasoned adult swimmer puts him or herself at risk going into the water after a distressed swimmer. Someone who is actively drowning might be flailing about because of panic and fear. It is possible that even a strong swimmer might get submerged under water or hurt trying to rescue someone without proper training. For these reasons, reaching and throwing are the best ways to respond to an aquatic emergency.