As East Tennesseans flock to area pools and lakes this Memorial Day weekend, Knoxville-based Priority Ambulance reminds everyone to recognize the signs of drowning and always watch children during water activities and sports.
While the perception is that drowning victims thrash in the water or call for help, the reality is that drowning is known as the “silent killer.” Victims can slip quietly underwater within reach of other swimmers. Drowning also is the second-leading cause of death in children under age 5.
“Because of scenes we see in the movies, people think a drowning victim will splash a lot and scream,” said Travis Estes, the EMS director for Priority Ambulance Loudon County. “In reality, a drowning victim often just slips underwater before many people realize what is happening.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 3,500 people die from unintentional, non-boating-related drownings each year, and 340 people die from boating-related drownings. Nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are male and the drowning rate of African-American children, ages 5-14, is three times that of Caucasian children in the same age range.
Drowning victims often cannot get their mouths above water long enough to inhale a breath of air and call for help. Their limbs are working beneath the surface as they try to get their head above water. Because their bodies are upright in the water, a situation known as Instinctive Drowning Response, onlookers don’t see the struggle.
“At that point, especially with a child, a rescuer may have as little as 20 to 60 seconds to intervene before the victim slips quietly beneath the surface,” Estes said. “If a person is able to wave or call for help, that is a sign of aquatic distress, which is a serious situation and can quickly escalate to Instinctive Drowning Response.”
Signs of Instinctive Drowning Response include:
- Mouth submerged or head tilted back with mouth open
- Eyes closed or glassy, unable to focus
- Vertical position in water
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder
Using safety measures like fences around pools and always having flotation devices, especially for children, are helpful, but the best defense is adult and parental supervision. At least one adult on-site should be CPR-trained and assigned to watch and supervise children in the water.
Other safety tips include:
- Teach children to never swim alone.
- Enroll children in swim lessons.
- Always designate a CPR-certified “water-watcher.”
- Keep a phone handy in case of emergency.
- Make sure your pool has a four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Cover and lock pools and hot tubs when not in use.
- Avoid entirely or moderate alcohol consumption when boating.
- Immediately exit the water when bad weather threatens, especially if you hear thunder or see lightning.
- Don’t rely on flotation devices as a substitute for supervision or swim lessons.
- Don’t dive into water without checking the depth of the pool or lake.
East Tennessee offers abundant waterways for family fun but follow all safety guidelines when swimming in a pool or enjoying the lake this summer.
About Priority Ambulance
Priority Ambulance provides the highest level of clinical excellence in emergency and nonemergency medical care to the communities it serves. Priority Ambulance is one the largest, fastest-growing national private ambulance services in the United States. Throughout its national service area, approximately 2,500 highly trained paramedics and EMTs staff a fleet of approximately 400 state-of-the-art vehicles with the latest medical equipment and technology.
Priority Ambulance’s family of companies operates under trusted local brands providing medical transport options in ten states. The Priority Ambulance company partners include Shoals Ambulance in Alabama; Maricopa Ambulance in Arizona; Puckett EMS in Georgia and Southeast Tennessee; Central EMS in Georgia; Angel EMS in Georgia; Seals Ambulance in Indiana; Kunkel Ambulance in Upstate New York; Trans Am Ambulance in western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania; Medshore Ambulance in South Carolina; and Priority Ambulance in East Tennessee. Priority Ambulance also serves Baptist Memorial Health Care facilities in West Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas under the Baptist brand.