A recent tragedy in Lynchburg, Virginia has cast a spotlight on a topic that many people probably haven’t thought about. If one were to see an individual drowning in a pool or some other body of water, the first likely reaction is to jump in and try to save that person. Unfortunately, without the proper training, that second person is putting themselves in harm’s way. That’s apparently what happened in the incident detailed in this report, and that tragedy has prompted officials in the area to stress the need to always utilize extreme caution in such situations.
One of the first things that can be done is obviously to get the attention of a lifeguard or someone else who has the skills necessary to execute a rescue. Lifeguards understand the proper techniques better than just about anyone else that would be available to help. They understand the risks inherent in trying to rescue someone, and they should know how to counteract the threat. People without training might find themselves in a situation where the drowning individual tries to use them as a flotation device, and suddenly the amateur rescuer is being dragged down too. Lifeguards have a better chance of avoiding further tragedy.
Of course, there isn’t always going to be lifeguards around when drowning occurs. You might find yourself in a situation where you’re the only one who can help. Under those circumstances, the best way to initiate a rescue is to keep one’s own body out of the water. Try to reach for the person without you yourself hopping in the water. If the person is too far away, then look around for objects, especially buoyant objects, that might be used to extend your reach and that they could grab ahold of.
Take a moment to consider items that might at first not even be on your radar. If you’re out by a lake, look around for long tree branches that could do the job. Even a towel you brought along to lay out on can be wound up and cast into the water with you holding one end. Once you find the right extender, then get down on your stomach and pull the person in from that position. That way, you won’t be pulled off-balance to fall into the water with the drowning person.
Finally, all swimmers need to understand their own limits, whether they’re about to try to make a rescue or are just getting into the water for recreational purposes. Don’t swim with no one else around, because if an emergency were to happen, no other people would be around to help. And those who aren’t confident in their abilities should utilize life jackets and other flotation devices so as to prevent tragedy.