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Drowning: A silent killer

By now, residents of other areas of the country have already put away their pool furniture and winterized their outdoor spas. But Californians are still enjoying the fine weather to swim, sunbathe and socialize in and around their pools.

Even though the kids have returned to school, that doesn't mean being less watchful around the water. In fact, every single day in America, 10 individuals die by drowning. Many of them are adults.

Do you know the signs of drowning?

It is very easy to overlook a drowning person's actions in a crowded pool. People who are actually drowning look very different from the stereotypical movie scene drownings.

For one, most drowning victims do not holler for help. They use every ounce of energy fighting for their next breaths. They struggle to keep their heads above the waterline. Their limbs might flail so it looks like they are climbing a ladder. They may also slap at the water as they try to bob up to the surface.

The struggle is short

Perhaps the scariest aspect of drowning is how short a time the non-swimmer can struggle before slipping under for the last time. People have drowned after struggling for only about 20 seconds, rarely more than a minute.

Some go under in the first few seconds of entering water that's over their heads. Panic sets in. Combined with the lack of swimming skills, it can prove fatal fast.

A software engineer from another country recounted his near-drowning experience at a company party held poolside. A non-swimmer, he sank to the pool bottom in the deep end and couldn't rise to the surface. Had his coworker not dived in and pulled him out, he would have drowned.

Panic takes over

In their life or death struggles, drowning victims often can't recognize or grab the rescue items tossed to them. Would-be rescuers who swim out to them should be prepared to approach them from behind to tow them ashore. Otherwise, the drowning persons will try to climb on top of their rescuers. This puts the rescuers in jeopardy as well.

Keeping safe around pools

Obviously, some rescues will be easier to enact than others. A 5'5" adult can jump into three feet of water in a pool and pluck a small child out of harm's way. Bringing a 200 lb. man from the depths of eight feet of water to the surface is not so simple.

The best protection against drowning is having strong swimming skills. But even good swimmers can have medical emergencies while in the water that put them at risk. Below are some tips for safer swimming.

  • Learn to swim, and teach your kids. Knowing how to swim is a skill all should acquire.
  • Never swim alone. Even good swimmers should use the buddy system when using spas or swimming.
  • Have rescue equipment within reach. Keep several types of rescue devices poolside -- floating rings, shepherd's hook, etc.
  • Have a phone nearby. Not for updating Facebook or texting, but available to dial 911 for emergencies.

If you lost a loved on in a drowning incident, or were injured from a near-drowning episode on someone's property, you could be entitled to compensation if it occurred due to another's negligence.

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