When we head to the beach or the pool on the weekends, most of us do so with a dangerous knowledge gap. We have wrong ideas about drowning and our ignorance means we don’t always recognize the signs of a person in distress when we see them. We are conditioned by movies and pop culture to think that a drowning person would yell and wave for help and splash violently to get attention. In reality, drowning is a quiet, desperate event – so quiet that every year, children die in pools and water just feet away from parents or friends who do not recognize the signs of distress.
Drowning behavior is so similar victim to victim that experts describe it as The Instinctive Drowning Response. Mario Vittone is an expert on water safety and he has been on a mission to raise awareness of what drowning behavior actually looks like – his blog post Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning is a really eye opener and something worth sharing.
He describes the behavior as:
The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning
Here’s a video showing instinctive drowning response.
Drowning can happen in seconds. A more widespread understanding of what signs of swimming distress and drowning behavior actually look like would help to save lives. Help to raise awareness – why not share this post with friends and relatives – particularly parents of young kids?
We all think about tire safety in winter when the roads are snowy or slushy and we adjust our driving accordingly. But what about in the rain? Wet, slick roads with water buildup can be quite hazardous, too. Many drivers are rather cavalier about adjusting their driving in the rain and are caught short when something goes wrong, such as hydroplaning.
Hydroplaning – also sometimes called aquaplaning – is losing traction over water while driving, and actually skimming or sliding on the surface of that water. Losing contact with the road is a frightening experience because it results in loss of control of the car. The formula for hydroplaning is speed, tire tread depth and water depth. It’s important to maintain your tires and slow down when it rains. Even a light rain can be hazardous, particularly in the first few minutes as rainfall mixes with oils on the road surface.
Technology helps, but is not a substitute for caution
While driver-assist technologies such as traction control, anti-lock brakes and lane assist technologies can help keep us safer, don’t rely on them. Be cautious and be prepared:
Maintain your tires – make sure the tread is good and that they are properly inflated.
Slow down when it rains. Many experts suggest reducing speed by about one-third.
Avoid standing water.
Disable cruise control on wet roads and when raining.
Increase the following distance between you and the car ahead.
If you do hydroplane, stay calm, ease off the accelerator, and don’t make any sudden moves that may cause a spin out.
This is a short post featuring a short, powerful video clip: Wait for it … this could save your life. We encourage you to watch it and share it – it’s just under 4 minutes. There’s a lot we could say about it, but we think it is more impactful to let the clip speak for itself.
Jacy Good, the young woman in the video who tells her story, is not an actress. Here is more about how she became a passionate safety advocate.
It’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. It’s good timing because July is the month with the most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), four people have been killed by lightning so far this year. On average, 43 people died of lightning strikes each year over a 10-year period. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. Your odds of being struck in a given year are about 1/1,222,000. Your odds of being struck in your lifetime if you live to be 80 are about 1/15,300.
From 2006 through 2019, 418 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States.
2/3 of the deaths occurred to people engaged in outdoor leisure activities
Males accounted for 79% of all fatalities
Fishermen accounted for four times as many fatalities as golfers
Beach activities and camping each accounted for about twice as many deaths as golf
Of work-related activities, farming was most dangerous
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida are the top four states with the highest recorded number of lightning strikes
Florida ranks first in lightning strike fatalities
1/3 of all lightning related injuries occur indoors
Lightning can have a range of up to 10 miles from the thunderstorm. It’s important to go inside at first sign of an approaching storm and to say inside up to 30 minutes after a storm has passed
NWS offers these tips about what you need to know to stay safe outdoors:
NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips – If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:
Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
Never lie flat on the ground
Never shelter under an isolated tree
Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)
For many years, the advice was to assume a crouch position if caught outside, but NWS stopped recommending the crouch in 2008 because it simply doesn’t provide significant protection
Indoor Lightning Safety
Some victims were struck inside homes or buildings while they were using electrical equipment or corded phones. Others were in contact with plumbing, outside doors, or window frames. Avoid contact with these electrical conductors when a thunderstorm.
Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.
Lightning protection systems intercept lightning strikes and provide grounding path for dangerous electricity to discharge safely, leaving occupants and homes safe from harm
Panel box surge protective devices (SPDs) serve as the first line of defense against harmful home electrical surges, limiting voltages by diverting currents at the electrical service entrance. Only qualified electricians should install SPDs
Point of use surge protectors protect electronics plugged into the device from surges, must be replaced over time or after a major surge event
Power strips do not provide surge protection
No surge device can handle a direct lightning strike. Unplug sensitive electronics well before a storm to prevent damage
The good news is that it’s Memorial Day Weekend, states are cautiously beginning to open beaches and parks, and the weather looks promising. The bad news is that the virus has not gone away so visiting your favorite coastal spots will come with many restrictions and limitations. If you are expecting a “normal” experience, you may be disappointed. You should “know before you go” and consider taking small steps to favorite outdoor activities rather than jumping in headlong … perhaps stay closer to home base to test the waters. Definitely don’t drive to another state without checking first – some states require 14-day quarantines for out-of-state visitors! But even if there is no quarantine requirement, check the status and availability of your destination, along with learning any rules and requirements that may be in place. Don’t count on lifeguards or public restrooms. Plan to bring face coverings, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and possibly your own food and beverages. Even if some restaurants are open for takeout or outdoor dining, they will likely have limited capacity.
We amassed some resources to help you plan before you go to the beach.
First, how safe are outdoor activities? The New York Times checked with experts who say that being outdoors with is probably fine and if you adhere to appropriate social distancing and think things through. They warn about lowering your guard too much and caution about outdoor dining, using locker rooms at pools, and navigating crowds in places like beaches. See What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors
They suggest that:
Ideally, people should socialize only with people who live in their homes, they say. If you decide to meet friends, you’re increasing your risk, but you can take precautions. It’s important to keep gatherings small. Don’t share food, utensils or beverages; keep your hands clean; and keep at least six feet from people who don’t live in your home.
Be cautious as you venture into public outdoor spaces … we all need to stay safe ourselves and keep our families and neighbors safe. Keep your expectations low, be flexible, and avoid crowded spots. This first weekend “free” might be too crowded, a walk or a bike ride in your local area might be the best bet. Public health officials will be keeping tabs on how things go in this first big holiday of the pandemic and it will affect how things go over the course of the summer, so let’s all be careful, safe, patient and respectful. We don’t want to undo all the good we did by staying at home over the last many weeks!