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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What A Lifeguard Knows About Drowning

Lifeguards, top, watch over swimmers at Lasker Pool in New York. (AP)

According the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 90 children younger than 15 have drowned in swimming pools in the U.S. since Memorial Day.

Aquatic rescue expert Frank Pia worked as a lifeguard in New York’s Orchard Beach in the 60s and found that there are many misconceptions about drowning. That prompted him to create the documentary, “The Reasons People Drown,” which taught that many drownings happen much faster and a lot more quietly than many people realize.

This conversation originally aired in 2010.


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  • Jim Ryan

    Recently, Kevin Rohan of Silver Gryphon Games established a fund to help the cause of water safety by helping local families pay for swimming and CPR lessons as well as lifeguard training and grief counseling. He started the fund after losing his 6-year-old son Michael following an accident at a water park. In an effort to assist him, Charles White of Fabled Environments, a company that designs floorplans for tabletop role-playing games, has helped put together a charity bundle.

    For anyone who might be interested, that bundle will be available until the end of the month (July 2012) and can be found here:


    Charles recently spoke about the bundle on the Crucible of Realms podcast (of which I’m one of the hosts), so if you’d like to hear about that, that episode can be found at:


    If you are a tabletop RPG fan or just want to help, I strongly suggest you check it out as there are only a few days left.


    – Jim

  • Sue Cz

    I was impressed how much understandable info was shared in such a short period of time. As an emergency dept. RN for many years, it never ceases to amaze me how many parents think the arm “swimmies” or blow up ring are sufficient to keep their child safe.  I was disappointed he didn’t mention the value of swimming lessons for young children.  They may never be competitive swimmers, but they will learn how to not panic in the water, how to float and tread water.  Parents are under the illusion that they can keep track of their children while drinking alcohol.  Mr. Pia debunks that myth nicely.

  • MDHastings

    As a former lifeguard at a community pool, I can vouch for this article. I once had to save a little girl who had gotten into water just a mere inch or two too deep for her. She was within arms reach of her mother who had turned her back to talk to a friend. She was clearly visible  in clear clean pool water. She was within 6 feet of my chair. I leaped off the chair, grabbed her, then swung around to sit her on the edge of the pool. This took about as long to happen as it takes to read this. Her mother was so surprised. She turned around to see what the splash was (me) and was shocked to see me with her daughter. The girl was all right, but could have drowned in less than 4 feet of water within arms reach of her mother. 
    To all parents: Unless your child is a fully competent swimmer, never depend on the lifeguard to see everything. Too much is a stake! In that particular pool there were hundreds of kids and adults all splashing about. It would be far too easy for one lifeguard to miss a problem.  In lakes and ponds the water is less clear and trouble can be much more difficult to spot. 

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