Commentary: It’s easy to be prepared to prevent a drowning death

Commentary: It’s easy to be prepared to prevent a drowning death

The Westerly Sun


Each year, over 3,500 people die in the United States from unintentional drowning. That is about 10 each day. Of these, nearly half are children aged 14 or younger and drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. In cases of nonfatal drowning, many victims are left with severe brain damage resulting in long-term disabilities such as loss of memory, a variety of cognitive issues and permanent loss of basic functioning.

The main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, absence of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, inadequate supervision while swimming, unsafe location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

Minimizing risk and prevention are key to saving lives. Here are some excellent tips to help you stay safe in the water:

Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water, even if lifeguards are present.

Always swim with a buddy.

If you or a family member has a seizure disorder or other significant medical condition, provide close supervision around water.

Learn to swim!

Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices!

Avoid consuming alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing.

Be aware of the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.

If you have a swimming pool at home:

Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard.

Remove floats, balls and other items from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.

If you are in and around natural water settings:

Use only U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.

Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.

Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents.

If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore.

Surveys indicate that very few feel confident in performing CPR and using a defibrillator. Often times, people will find that they are alone when witnessing a drowning and will need to rely upon their own knowledge of first aid and resuscitation. As such, it is critical we continue to strive to ensure everyone has the skills needed to help another in their ultimate time of need. Without immediate care, chances of survival are essentially zero.

CPR training is affordable, easy to learn, easily accessible and is appropriate for all to learn. Any CPR is better than no CPR and your actions can only help. Courses in CPR are available from your local EMS agencies such as the Westerly Ambulance, as well as from WesterlyAED.com and the American Heart Association.

David Hiltz, of Westerly, is an emergency care advocate and Director of Quality for Code One Training Solutions.


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