Water Safety: the ABC of Recognising Swimmers in Trouble

May 31, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
People enjoying the good weather possibilities at a beach picturds on February 5, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.
People enjoying the good weather possibilities at a beach pictured on February 5, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

This week is National Water Safety Awareness Week (running from Monday, May 28th to Monday, June 4th). Now that the weather is getting better, many people are enjoying the refreshing warm-weather possibilities of Ireland’s waterways, lakes and seas. For this reason, Irish Water Safety (IWS) is appealing for people to learn their “ABC to avoid Bank Holiday Hurt”. 

According to a press release from the IWS, most people have a misconception of how a drowning person acts, and therefore may fail to recognise when someone really might need help. “Drowning is deceptively quiet. Although seeing a person shouting and thrashing is likely to mean distress, the waving, splashing and yelling for help that we see on dramatic television shows is rarely seen in real life.” 

According to Irish Water Safety, the reason for this is that drowning people gasp for air, which is why they are likely not to scream for help – “breathing comes first, and speech is secondary.” Furthermore, people are unlikely to wave for help, as they are struggling to keep above water and will, therefore, instinctively use their arms to remain on the surface.

To help swimmers keep safe, the IWS has issued the “ABC to Avoid Bank Holiday Hurt” – a checklist for the warning signs associated with drowning.

A – Ask: “Are you alright?” If they can answer, they probably are, but never take it for granted.
B – Blank Stare – Beware: If they do not answer and instead look blank or panicked, encourage them to shore, reach with clothing, or throw them a floating object or ring-buoy.
C – Children playing in water make noise. If they are quiet, then get to them fast – ask questions later.

Further advice on staying safe for all aquatic activities is available at Irish Water Safety’s website, www.iws.ie

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