Kindness in Real Life: Drowning deaths can be prevented

The towel extraction technique allows for easy removal of an unconscious person from the water, especially over a pool or boat edge. (photo courtesy of Ben Rayner)
The towel extraction technique allows for easy removal of an unconscious person from the water, especially over a pool or boat edge. (photo courtesy of Ben Rayner)

Since February 2017, eastern Connecticut has witnessed at least five tragic drownings that all could have been prevented. The victims ranged in age from 10 to 63 years old.

These incidents occurred in ponds, rivers, estuaries, the sound and the open ocean. Unfortunately, the common denominator was lack of knowledge about the hazards of the water.

According to the CDC, drowning is among the leading causes of accidental death for children 14 and under. The main cause of this is supervisory inattention. Drowning is also a leading cause of death for males 18 to 30 years of age.

Water Emergency Training is a non-profit dedicated to drastically reducing the number of these drownings through education and training.

Just a few moments of inattention is all it takes for a tragedy to occur. In the time intakes to go inside and use the bathroom or to fix a cocktail a child can be unconscious and drowning. This very tragedy happens every day in America.

Recently I was fishing at Esker Point in Groton. While I fished I observed two women lying on their towels one of whom was asleep and the other reading a book, both with their backs to the water.

Innocent enough.

But there was a small toddler, maybe 2 years old, who was joyfully playing in knee deep water. This is just how a tragic drowning occurs.

Swimming lessons are an essential first step, but they not enough on their own. It is not possible to “drown-proof” a child or anyone else. Every day in this country someone who was considered a “strong swimmer” drowns. Pay attention and know what to do if an emergency arises.

Another misconception is how long it takes to drown. If you go into 60 degree water or less, your survival time isn’t measured in hours or even minutes, it’s often measured in seconds.

Boating deaths also make up a large percentage of drownings. Whether kayaking, power boating or sailing, anyone on a vessel needs to understand the basics of water safety.

It is essential that you not only get certified in basic boating skills, but also in general water safety, including local waterway knowledge. Always wear a life vest, especially if you are in a kayak or canoe. Two years ago I witnessed a woman in her 60s or 70s paddling a kayak 300 yards off of Groton Long Point with no vest, in October.

At WET, Inc. we can help you and your family stay safe by giving you the knowledge and training needed to prevent a water emergency and to help you survive if one is unavoidable.

Ben Rayner is a former survival instructor. He is executive director of Water Emergency Training Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preventing drownings. For more information visit www.wateremergencytraining.org.

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in which we encourage writers to tell about kind acts being done in the community. To submit your own story and photos, email Lee Howard at l.howard@theday.com.

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