Tag Archives: Instinctive Drowning Response

Yay—Summer is here!


Yay—Summer is here!, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

Well, if you haven’t already noticed, summer is in full swing. Heat waves, power outages, traffic jams, highway construction, air conditioners, cold beer on the patio, burgers on the barbeque, weekends up at the cottage, beach time, camping trips, outdoor adventure, family fun, summer holidays! We have been waiting for this all year. Woo Hoo!

Get out there, enjoy the warm sunshine, beautiful weather, the beach, the cottage by the lake, your boat on the water, the golf course, the baseball diamond, the local pool, the back yard barbeque, wading pools in municipal parks, summer camp, canoe trips, sailing in the harbour, festivals and events, summer concerts, Shakespeare in the Park, the hiking trails, a road trip or a family adventure. Enjoy the company of friends, your family—and definitely, spend some time on your own.

Let your kids run loose in the park, ride a bike down a dusty road in the country, explore the ravine behind your house, wander the beach barefoot. All of these moments will create memories of summer that will last a lifetime. Soak it all in, write it down, take plenty of photos, shoot them on video and take time to just be.

Have tons of fun but be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, keep an eye out for kids on the road, be safe around the water and keep your eye on the kids whenever they are playing in or around water. As much fun as they can be, and as great as they are a place to cool off, every year kids drown in back yard pools, lakes and rivers because somebody was not paying attention. Don’t be that guy.

Know what it looks like when someone is in trouble.

Most people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help; and why wouldn’t they? That’s what we see on TV. Without training, we are conditioned first to think of drowning as a violent struggle that is noisy and physical. In actuality, it is not.

The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person’s attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews.

Will you know it when you see it?

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response:

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfi lled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

For additional information, visit “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” by Mario Vittone on the G Captain Blog.

For more information, tips and resources about survival in the water, check out On Scene Magazine: The Journal of U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue.

Have a great summer…

Check in often. We’ll be posting photos, stories, video and other illuminating stuff to amuse and maybe even inspire. Send us your summer stories. Send us your photos and links to your videos. We just may share them with the rest of the HeadsUpDad community.