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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What You Don’t Know About Drowning

(Flickr/ La Peyrecout Gites)

(Flickr/ La Peyrecout Gites)

Lifeguarding consultant Francesco Pia has some advice for the summer about drowning.  He worked as a lifeguard in New York’s Orchard Beach, and he made a documentary called “The Reasons People Drown,” that challenged a lot of misconceptions about drowning.  He found that:

1.) Drowning is often silent: Pia says that people drowning are often not able to yell for help, even though tv shows depict drowning victims as yelling and thrashing.

2.) Drowning happens very quickly: Pia says that drowning victims struggle for anywhere between 20 and 60 seconds.

3.) Drowning often happens when people are around others: Pia said he found many victims drowned while surrounded by others, who didn’t realize the person was drowning.

Government statistics show that two children drown every day in the U.S., one of those in a pool. Pia told Here & Now’s Robin Young that “in the same way that parents child-proof a home, they need to child proof their backyard pool if they have one.”

He recommends a few easy precautions for pool owners:

  • Install a fence around the pool that is at least 4 feet tall
  • There shouldn’t be a space of more than 4 inches in between the fencing
  • Install a self-closing, self-latching gate around the pool
  • Do not leave toys on the deck of the pool, because the toys “will serve as an attractant,” says Pia.

Pia also recommends that parents use “touch supervision.” Meaning, that they are close enough to their swimming child to touch him or her.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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