Water Safety and Rescues for Children Who Can't Swim

by Pool Builders on 04-03-2014 in Articles

A child or teen that can't swim but has been properly taught what to do in a water emergency can still save his or her friend's life even from dry land. The first and foremost step is to talk to your child about what to do in a water emergency. Practice these instructions and make sure children understand, that this is not a play game, but in an absolute emergency they come and get you. Make sure your child or teen is safe and secure before assisting someone who is drowning. The second steps, if you or your child can't swim, don't go in the water!

If you feel you absolutely must go in the water to save the victim only do so if you can grab a life preserver, life jacket or floatation device and or safe boat. I shall describe the steps in just a moment.

Let's break it down from a teenager to a six year old would-be-rescuer. You can't swim and you are by the pool or a swimming area, and you see a friend, younger sibling, cousin, or your grandparent fall in the water, face down. First step, shout for help! If you have a phone nearby call 911! Second step, look for a floatation device that you can throw into the water close to the victim so he or she can stay above the water. If this floatation is a round ring with a long cord, find a secure post or pole that is bolted into the ground. For an example you tie the end of the line to a fence post, pool railing, or metal step or hand brace that is not going to be pulled up or away but is close to the side of the pool. The reason for that is if you have to throw this round ring several times, you will not lose it on the first throw.

If you can't find a place to tie it or the cord is too short, hold onto the line and lower your body weight to support the body weight of the victim. Make a loop to go over your wrist so you don't lose the ring. If you can lie down on your belly on the ground near the side of the pool or lake and throw the ring you may be able to hold onto the short cord, and reach the victim. Lying down will help you from being pulled into the water. If you still can't reach the drowning victim, throw the ring as close to him or her as possible so that can sustain his or her head above water. Keep your eyes on the victim; in one instant he or she could be submerged. Knowing where the victim last went under, can help rescuers pinpoint the location to dive for the victim. Scream for help, but don't leave the victim unless absolutely crucial for your own safety.

If you don't have a floatation device, try to find a long hook, pool skimmer or tree branch that the victim can grab hold of if they are conscious. It is also helpful to lie down by the side of the water, so you are not pulled in too. Many would-be-rescuers have drowned from impulsively jumping into the water or by falling in while trying to rescue someone. Keep your head. Stay safe, you will not help your friend if you are fighting for your life.

If the victim is unconscious and can't grab the end; Reach the hook under his clothes or arms and pull him or her to the pool side or water's edge. If his or face is under water, grab whatever you can reach to lift his or her head from the water. Grab the hair if that is all you can reach. Roll him or her on the back. If the victim is too heavy, keep his or her head above water until help comes. If you can drag the victim to a shallow side, or pull him or her onto land, or pool or dock steps do that, but make sure of your footing. Being safe is your most important task. If the victim is too heavy, perhaps you can secure him with a belt, rope, or nylon cord on his wrist, arm or clothing somehow so he is not washed away from you. If you can't get him or her out of the water, wait for help but keep shouting for help.

If no floatation or tree branch is available, lie down near on the ground and reach out your hand or arm while holding on to the side of the pool or hand railing.

A very young child by the side of a pool who sees a young friend or sibling fall into the water can do the same as above, except entering the water. A child can throw a ring close to the victim, can run for help or call, and shout. In some instant an older child can grab a long pole or hook to reach the victim.

Teens, or college students, if you have to enter a body of water to help someone, assess the situation first. Put on a life vest if you have one. If you have a good length of rope, tie the rope to a tree or heavy log. Next make a loop on the end and wrap it around your wrist. Start entering the shallow end and walking to the end of the rope, reach out to the victim's arm or hand and turn his or her body over so that the face is up. Tip his or her head back gently so the airway is clear. His head or neck may be injured so do this very slowly and very minimally. Drag him or her behind you as you follow the rope back into shore. Once you have safely pulled your friend from the water, then you can tend to his injuries if he is seriously hurt or bleeding. If you suspect your friend has a head or neck injury, move him or her as little as possible; roll up a shirt, towel, or piece of clothing to place under the neck to keep it still.

As a last resource the use of a boat, canoe, or surf board to make a water rescue. Sometimes even though you can't swim you need to enter the water to save someone who is imminent danger. Assess the situation first. See what weeds or obstacles may be present. If you have a life jacket, put it on you first. If you have a surf board or long board, lie down on the board and push the board into the water. Bring the victim close to the board, and grab hold of his or her arm and escort the victim back to the shore or land. If you can pull his torso onto the board he or she will at least be safe from further drowning. Keep paddling in towards land until you scrape the bottom with the bottom of the board. When you can stand up yourself, get secure footing, and pull the board with your friend to shore.

If you have a row boat, and know how to paddle and guide it you can bring it out to the spot where your friend is in trouble. You should wear your life jacket, and use the floatation device, or stick or paddle to bring your friend into the boat. If he or she weighs too much, let him hold on to the rope or side of the boat as you guide the boat and him or her back to the beach. Paddle the boat until you feel the bottom push onto the land. If you don't know how to row or paddle a boat, don't get into any boat. Wait for a rescuer, and stand and watch the water where you last saw your friend. Keep shouting until help comes.

If you fall into the water, don't panic. Keep your head above water, and don't splash around and make big dramatic movements. Reach and cup the water in front of you with each hand and pull down and towards you which will propel you forward in a basic swim stroke. Move your legs in big circles in the water. Treading water can keep you afloat. You can move your arms in big circles under the water near your body. Lean your head back and arch your back. Tie the bottom of your shirt, and blow air into the top of your shirt to make a sack of air in your shirt. Keep moving your legs in circles. Or push your legs up and down, like you are going to take a long step in front of you. Remember reach and cup the water in front of you with your hand and pull down and towards you. Keep doing this basic swim stroke until you come into shore or land again. When you get tired lean your head back on the water and arch your back again. Floating like this on your back can help you calm down. If your head goes under again, come up and get a big gasp of air. You and your friend will make it if you stay calm.

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