Staying safe this summer: know the REAL signs of drowning!

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Happy Summer, everyone!

Life’s a bit crazy at Casa Owen at the moment, so I hope you’ll pardon this repost.  However, the message is still an important one.  Stay safe!



I was really impressed by the video below (I’ve included the link, in case the embed doesn’t work).  With summer here and everyone hitting the pool/beach, it seemed the right time to get the word out.  I know I learned a lot, and I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

We human beings have a number of hard-wired, uncontrollable, instinctive responses (we had even more of them as infants), designed by nature to protect us:  we blink when an object comes at us suddenly; we experience a fit of coughing when something gets lodged in our throat; we feel our heart racing when we’re afraid, as our bodies ready for a possible “fight or flight” action.

Turns out, there’s an instinctive response when one is drowning, too.  It’s a completely involuntary set of movements, and it looks nothing like the portrayals in film and t.v.  People have been known to drown – especially children – with others standing right next to them.  But no one recognized what they saw as drowning.

Differences between Aquatic Distress and Drowning:

Behaviors: “Aquatic Distress” (this can lead to drowning) Behaviors: Drowning (the person has 20-60 seconds before loss of consciousness)
Yelling for help Can’t speak; just trying to breathe (If you aren’t sure, try asking “Are you all right?” If they can’t answer, act quickly)
Waving arms/thrashing in the water.  Can respond to a rescuer and grab a rope or buoy. Arms out laterally, pressing down on the water’s surface (instinctive attempt to gain leverage).  Cannot control arm movements or reach for a flotation device.
The head is out of the water Mouth is moving just above and below the water surface, barely clearing the water to catch a breath.


Here’s a dramatic video of a drowning boy.  Don’t worry; he was rescued in time. 🙂  Note the people standing right near him, with no clue as to what was happening.  In their defense, you can also see how quiet and barely noticeable it is.  Thank goodness for trained lifeguards!  The video includes a terrific expert-narrated explanation of what is going on.

The instinctive drowning response.

For more info, check out this link, from On Scene: the Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue (p. 14).

What do you do to stay safe?  I’d love to hear from you.

Yep, these guys are mine, though they are much older now. 😉

Here’s to a safe summer for you and your family!

Until next time,


6 people like this post.

14 thoughts on “Staying safe this summer: know the REAL signs of drowning!”

  1. Marcy KennedyMarcy Kennedy

    Thank you for this. You’re right. I don’t know of many people who would realize that drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies. Very important info.

  2. Louise BehielLouise Behiel

    I would never have guessed what drowning looks like. Thanks so much Kathy for posting this. With grandchildren who love the pool and a grandma who doesn’t swim near well enough, I need to know this.

  3. Nancy LauzonNancy Lauzon

    Very informative, thanks for sharing this – and I hope you and yours have a safe and happy summer =)

  4. PatriciaPatricia

    Well I guess the best way to prevent drowning is to stay out of the water. Seems like a no brainer to me, Kathy.

    But seriously, it is amazing what instincts can say if we choose to listen to them. I was following a driver one night and my husband was following me. The guy in the first car was driving with very jerky movements. He eventually drove off the road. A little ways down the road (it wasn’t safe to stop where he went in the ditch) I pulled over and asked my husband to go back and check in the guy. My husband didn’t want to because he said the guy was just drunk and he hadn’t been hurt, he just drove in the ditch.

    It didn’t feel right to me, so I practically begged him to go back and check on the guy. Turns out, the driver had fallen asleep and when the car went in the ditch he hit his head when the car hit the ditch. My husband pulled him out of the ditch with his truck and followed him home to make sure he got there safely.

    My instincts were right and I felt like we had done a great thing. I know I’m tooting my own horn, but I believe in trusting your gut. And I know we should have gone back even if the guy had been drunk, but still . . . you know what I’m saying.

    Great video about actual drowning. I learned something.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    Amazing. I had no idea and the video really does provide that necessary visual to get a sense of what it really looks like. Far less dramatic than I would have expected. Thanks for this Kathy – could save a life. I’ll be forwarding it around!!!

  6. Kristy K. JamesKristy K. James

    One of my uncles watched a teen drown. He was in a little boat (a little one with a motor that travels about .00005 mph) and he couldn’t get there in time. Neither could he yell loud enough to be heard over the motor…or the boy’s friends who were splashing very close to him. He tried, but he got there too late…and it was a very traumatic experience for him.

    So it’s good to get information like this out there…because most people DON’T know what it looks like. Thanks for sharing, Kathy!

  7. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    Thanks for reposting this Kathy. Like the others before me, this was enlightening. With everything going on at Casa Bowen, I hope you will survive. 🙂

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