Thursday, February 14, 2013

Harlem Shake - Lifejackets Save Lives!

It's a funny video, but preventing death due to drowning is anything but.  This serious business is in a large part only beaten by creating Awareness!  Please do your part and help raise awareness!  We can only do this together!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Drowning is Preventable...

How can an average citizen, a mom, a dad, a sister or brother.. anyone for that matter help prevent accidental death or injuries from drowning....  The very first step is Awareness.  Please invest in our mission to prevent the #2 Killer of children under 14.  Watch this video.. share it with a friend... and join us on our quest to eliminate drowning deaths and injuries here in Colorado.

Friday, August 17, 2012

On the Stand- A lifeguards perspective

Have you ever been in a store and realized that your child has wondered off?  Your heart sinks and your ‘gut’ fills with anxiety of what could be. What’s your first instinct? …GO!

The same is for a lifeguard on stand when they see a child showing signs of actively drowning. Our instinct….GO!  In fact, many times you will hear a lifeguard say: If I don’t know, I GO! As a lifeguard, we would rather err on the side of proactive safety than have to live with other possible consequences for the rest of our lives and yours. Those are two very different conversations to have with parents.

What are some signs of active drowning that lifeguards look for?

The victim normally has a vertical body position with arms out to the side in the water, making little to no forward movement. Their head is tilted back so that their mouth will remain above water. Their eyes may be squeezed shut or wide open with a look of panic. They will rarely make a call for help as their main focus is: GET AIR.  Another telling sign of child in need of help is “Bobbing.” Many times this is mistaken for play, when in fact it is a red flag that they are in trouble and need assistance.

How can you assist a lifeguard when at the pool with your child?
  • Know your child’s limitations. If they are not a strong swimmer, have them wear a Coast Guard approved Personal Floatation Device, (Note- arm floaties will not keep your child’s head above water, but do a really nice job of keeping their arms above water). Many public pools, water parks, and recreation districts have Coast Guard approved Type II lifejackets at their facilities that you can ‘check out’ while you enjoy their pools.
  • Have them take breaks. Many public facilities clear their pools each hour; use this time to assess your child’s energy level.
  • Set boundaries. Let your children know what is ‘off limits’ at the pool before getting in: The deep end. The big slide. The diving boards. Know where your child is in the water at all times.
  • Be within Arms reach at all times. This is greatest level of protection you can provide your child when at the pool. In addition, you are having some great quality time with your child.

By using these simple tips, you can assist the lifeguards in keeping the pools safe for everyone. Next time you see a lifeguard go in the pool, remember, they just had that heart sinking- gut feeling that they needed to GO!

Colorado Drowning Prevention Taskforce Member
Janice Weed (Highlands Ranch Community Association)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Teaching kids to swim: safety first, fun later

By Judy Heumann

Last summer, a two-year old stepped off a concrete path at the Botanical Gardens and slipped into a lily pond. His mother was stunned when she cleared away the foliage and realized he was going down, rather than coming up for a breath. More recently, an 18 month-old was running happily in a local park, when he darted down the bank into the creek. He was floating motionless, face down in the water when his mother jumped in to save him.
Both of these children had been through swim lessons. Neither knew how to swim. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of five in the U.S, and first in several states, including Texas, Florida, California and Arizona. The victims are frequently children who loved the water -- to death. This is because water is a hostile environment for humans.
Swimming is not a natural ability -- it must be learned. So it is prudent to examine the message that we parents unwittingly send our children about water. "Water Is Fun!" But is it? Should a child who cannot swim perceive water as fun?
Consider what happened to a 15 month-old boy last year. He was playing in a pool with his older brother. The two got out, but the toddler returned to the pool alone. He was found just a few minutes later, floating face down. Efforts to resuscitate him failed. This scenario repeats itself over and over every year and the details always have a similar ring-- the caretaker's back was turned for only a second. What is the solution?
Our society insists that children be happy and relaxed around water. But as a child begins to exhibit caution around water, it is a sign that he is becoming more aware of his environment and his own limitations; it means he is becoming SAFER. It makes no sense to play games in the water to make him feel safe, if he is not. First teach him to swim, to survive in the water; the comfort and enjoyment will follow naturally and safely.
Learning to swim does not have to be fun. It is knowing how to swim that is fun. The learning process is often difficult. And learning to swim is a process. It must involve breath control, propulsion, rotation, and floating and must provide each child with the survival skills necessary to save his life. Teachers should be infant aquatic professionals. You should screen your child's instructor as you would your pediatrician.
There is also no specific point at which a child is magically ready to swim; some may never seem "ready." There is absolutely nothing wrong with a preschooler who does not want to put his face in the water. Why would he? What ís fun about not being able to breathe or see clearly?
Readiness is irrelevant; babies as young as six months can be taught to float, and all children over a year can learn to swim. However, many "fun" lessons are either terminated when the child seems uncooperative, or go on indefinitely without results. Often these lessons are inexpensive, but consider the cost over time, especially if the child takes 2-3 years to learn to swim. If you have water nearby, you do not have the luxury of waiting this long.
The ability to get a continuous supply of oxygen, regardless of the water's depth, determines who can truly swim.
Worse than a child who fails to master basic survival skills is a child who thinks he can swim. More dangerous yet is when the parents also labor under this delusion. Children who can only swim with 'floaties' or when they can touch the bottom CANNOT REALLY SWIM, and babies can drown in wading pools, buckets, toilets, hot tubs, and the like.
Many parents feel that lessons for very young toddlers or infants are not necessary because they are always watching. And although supervision is the most important deterrent to drowning, who can say they constantly keep their eyes on an active two-year old? Other parents rely on flotation devices: water wings, floaties, swim sweaters, and the like. These devices put the child in a vertical posture, opposite of the proper posture for swimming, they cause panic when removed, can interfere with learning an efficient swimming stroke, and may cause a false sense of security in both the child and the parent. They seem to sanction a lack of supervision. Even a life jacket is no substitute for supervision or for knowing how to swim.
Shouldn't we do all we can to make our children safer? Isn't it worth it? Look at your child when you answer this question, then pick up the phone and call your nearest Infant Aquatics Specialist.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Flooding Flooding Flooding

Every year heavy rains make an appearance in Colorado.  Sometimes in the form of spring showers other times in the way of Summer Monsoons.  As a child I remember cutting milk cartons in half to make homemade boats to float down the swollen gutters along the street outside my  house.  I also remember the fresh smell of rain in our crisp mountain air.

As an adult however, heavy rainfall typically means something all together different for me.  I still love the smell of rain in the air and of course my lawn perks up after being quenched by an afternoon shower. But now, especially with the devastation that wildfires have brought to the vegetation and Colorado countryside, I now think of "flash floods."  Flash floods in areas like these can cause dangerous mudslides that can carry away people, cars and even houses.

Flash floods are of course not limited to the areas affected by wildfires.  Heavy rainfall in Colorado cities can quickly overwhelm even the most well maintained city streets.  Low lying areas swiftly become flooded with deep pools and fast moving washes of water.  These murky waters hide many dangers. Hidden culverts and grates over storm drains that were meant to channel water from these very same streets, lay in wait for the unsuspecting passerby to venture too close and become sucked into these death traps with unrelenting force.  This phenomenon is referred to as "Delta P" and has been the cause of many a tragic drowning.  One of the most well known incidence of this was the August 17th 2000 drowning death of Denver Firefighter Robert Crump.

On the evening of August 17th, firefighter Crump was with his crew when he was called to an improvised rescue in the middle of a city street flooded with water.  Firefighter Crump was tragically swallowed up by water on the flooded street as it followed the path of least resistance down a 12 foot culvert.  The weight and velocity of the water compounded to create forces much to strong for any person to fight against.   Firefighter Crump was swept away that day.  Just as dangerous as any other aspect of flash floods, hidden storm drains and culverts shout watch out to anyone who considers wading down city streets that are flooded with rain water.

"How to survive a flood"
Photo from Popular Mechanics Magazine Website
One reason firefighter Crump and his crew were working on these flooded streets were the large number of vehicles littering them.  Drivers are either unaware of the dangers of flooded streets or fail to recognize such a danger prior to reaching the point of no return.  It takes 9 inches of moving water to sweep a person off their feet, and less than two feef of water to carry even an SUV off the roadway and down stream to certain danger.

Many Public Safety Announcements (PSA's) have been done portraying the dangers of driving into low lying areas where waters have floodfed the roadway.  One popular safety message is "Turn around don't drown.)  Please take a moment to visit this video and heed it's warning.

Remember these flash flood and water safety tips.

  • Never wade on flooded streets.  These muddy waters can hide storm drains and culverts that can sweep you off your feet.
    • 9 inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Turn around, don't drown.
    • less than 24 inches of water can float your vehicle from the roadway and downstream to certain danger.
Let's all make it home to enjoy the fresh smell of rain from our porches, and show our kids how to make boats out of milk cartons.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Luck Favors the Prepared"

Life Jackets Save Lives!

Boating in Colorado... Clear blue skies, Majestic mountain panoramas...

I started this article last night as I looked out at the scene I began to describe above.  I didn't get too far before I was distracted by my two young girls who were playing nearby.  This morning I woke up to finish writing this article and began a quick internet search.  It didn't take long before I came across a tragic accident that occurred last night here in Colorado.  The headline read, "2 Drown, 1 Safe in Loveland Boating Accident."

I realize I am hypersensitive regarding water safety, but how do I instill even a small portion of that sensitivity into others.  I love the outdoors... I love the water.... I realize however, how quickly water can become a dangerous and unforgiving host.  Rarely does anyone set out on an adventure expecting the worst of scenarios to play out before them.  Most often we are excited and overcome with anticipation of what the day holds for us.  For us to act any other way paints us as worriers, over protective or plain not fun. Trust me... I've been labeled all of these and more.  I've also had the unfortunate responsibility to intervene during or after families have found themselves in tragic circumstances.

So, how do we get the message across that when you are boating you need to prepare for the unexpected?  Mario Vittone wrote an article back in December 2011 titled, "Thinking about safety all wrong."  I know Mario and can relate to his perspective.  Mario is a U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer... at least for the time being.   He retires this year.  Mario has responded to numerous accidents related to boating in our oceans.  When I've heard him speak of some of his customers approach to the water, rarely was their approach well thought out in regard to preparedness for tragedy.  Most prepared for their day on the water as a brief interlude of relaxation followed by the rest of their lives safe on shore.

As an emergency responder, husband, father and water safety advocate, I'm here to tell you that a lack of sensitivity to the dangers of boating can be devastating.  Not only that, but the ripple from such a tragedy reaches well beyond the boater.  We all know that life jackets give us funny tan lines, make us sweat and are uncomfortable...  Much like bike helmets and seat belts, they are perceived as a nuisance.  But make no mistake, Life Jackets Save Lives!

I've looked into the eyes of a loved one and seen the sheer terror as he fell into the cold waters of a Colorado lake without a life jacket.  Life jackets do no good clipped to the back of the boat seat, or inside the compartment.  Once events change from pleasant to survival, putting on your life jacket is difficult if not impossible and simply too late.

I'm not trying to dampen your adventure, just provide you some insight.  Life Jackets do Save Lives, I've seen it first hand.  Life jackets can only do this if you wear them.  Protect yourself and your loved ones and whenever you are boating, prepare for the unexpected and enjoy many more boat outings in the future.  In the words of Edna Mode from The Incredibles, "Luck favors the prepared."

Wear your Life Jackets and I hope to see you on the water!  Visit the Colorado State Parks Boating Program Home Page for more safety tips.

Tim Woodward