Wasatch EMS Report May, 2011
Update: Water based Emergencies
As we have entered a very soggy spring, I have been asked by several people about what to do in an emergency setting where water is involved. In our recreation activities, lakes, streams, ponds, creeks or swimming pools can provide for both great entertainment as well as a danger if not respected. There are a few tips that can help keep us all safe when enjoying ourselves in water. The American Red Cross has developed a course on water safety for children that utilize a whale mascot by the name of Longfellow. During many swimming lesson sessions, these tips are taught to help kids start to respect water while remaining safe in recreation settings. Although designed for children, adults would be wise to remember them as well.
-Swim with a buddy in a supervised area.
Never swim alone, especially in large bodies of water.
-Be cool, follow the rule—the reasons behind water safety rules.
Whether in a community swimming pool or in a lake, remember rules are there to help us and others remain safe. Know the laws of watercraft safety before operating them.
-Look before you leap—choose safe places to swim and dive.
We have all heard of people that end up with spinal cord injuries after diving into shallow water. Diving is just part of the concern. Jumping in feet first can also lead to serious injury if you do not know how deep the water is that you are entering. Know your terrain.
-Think so you don't sink—what to do when things go wrong.
Remaining calm and treading water will save energy. This will help you help yourself.
-Reach or throw, don't go—safe ways to rescue a swimmer in trouble.
Using rope, life preservers, branches, rescue buoys or other objects are better than going in after a distressed swimmer in most cases. If you do swim to them, they may grab you and unconsciously use you as their life preserver, putting you in harm’s way as well.
-Don’t just pack it, wear your jacket—the importance of wearing a life jacket.
They are called life jackets for a reason.
-Cold can kill—knowing the hazards.
Especially in spring and early summer, cold water is dangerous. However, even later in the year, wet and windy can lead to hypothermia.
-Learn about boating before you go floating.
Again, know the laws of boats and watercraft safety.
There are times when we may find ourselves in water without any intention. For instance, you may be in a motor vehicle accident where the car ends up in a river or lake. The first thing you should do if this happens is remain calm. If you panic, you will use more oxygen, which is the one resource you cannot live without. The next thing to do is to get out of the vehicle. This may involve unlatching your seatbelt and those of anyone else in the vehicle. Often, you will have a few seconds before your car fills with water. There are many devices to break windows of cars in case of emergencies. If you do not have one of these devices, manually rolling down the window is an option if you do not have power windows. If you do have power windows, you can wait until the car is full of water and open the door. This allows the pressures inside and outside of the car to equalize, thus making opening a door easier. Once out of the vehicle, swim to the surface of the water quickly and make your way to land. If there are any objects floating nearby, attempt to use them to support you in this process. Once out of the water, signal for help whether by using cell phones, LCD’s on watches or waving brightly colored clothing. Once help arrives, listen to your rescuers. They are there to help and need your cooperation. How you act will help determine your chances of survival.
We have all heard about the flood stages of many rivers. Although we do not have levee problems as some parts of the country, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by flood waters if we attempt to enter them with poor judgment in search of additional excitement. The rule to follow is to avoid going in rivers and streams that are in flood stage. The fast moving water may look fun to attempt kayaking, canoeing, wading or crossing, however there are many reports of people who find themselves in “deep” trouble when the force of the water is more than they expected.
These are only a few recommendations to help us all remain safe in our recreation activities that involve water. Be careful and enjoy these great resources that this community has within its borders!
BY KRIS KEMP, MD