Ten years ago, former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone wrote an incredible and poignant article describing how too many drownings happen quietly and unnoticed. Since we are entering the spring and summer months, now is a good time to summarize and review some of Vittone’s most salient points about drowning.
If you spend time on or near the water, whether at Lake Allatoona, a swimming pool or somewhere else, then you should know what to look for when friends, family and children, in particular, fall into the water unexpectedly. Drowning is deceptively quiet. Although most of us imagine a drowning victim thrashing, waving, splashing and yelling in the water, it is rarely that way. Drowning is a silent event, unnoticed by people as close as 10 yards away.
When someone is drowning, there is very little splashing and no waving, yelling or calling for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children ages 15 and younger (just behind vehicle accidents). Of the roughly 750 children who will drown this year, nearly 50% of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In 10% of those drownings, the adult will be watching them and will have no idea it is happening.
There are many reasons for people having a difficult time determining if someone is drowning. Next month, we will look at some of those reasons, as well as a number of observations that can indicate a person is in distress and needs help.
– Greg Fonzeno is the public education officer and commander of the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit (Flotilla 22) at Allatoona Lake.