This article is part of:

Explainer Series

A series of guides to help you buy and use gear in the outdoors.

view all 48 articles

Someone’s Drowning? Here’s What To Do

More than 3,500 people die each year in the U.S. in drowning incidents. The United States Swim School Association offers advice for responding to a swimmer in trouble.

deep water

These guidelines explain how to respond to a drowning for the average Joe (not trained lifeguards). Read on to learn what to do if someone is struggling in the water, according to the USSSA.

How to React to a Drowning Incident

Throw, Don’t Go – A young child struggling in the water can easily cause an adult attempting a rescue to drown as well. Panic can cause a child to obstruct an adult from swimming or staying above the water. It is safer to throw a lifesaving device, towel, rope, or even a pool noodle to the person in the water, wait until he or she grabs hold, and then tow the person to safety.

Call for Help – Alert others around you that a drowning is occurring before you take action to try to save the victim. In case something goes wrong it is vitally important that other people know you may need assistance with the rescue.

Approach from Behind – If you need to enter the water to save someone from drowning, it is best to approach the person from behind to lessen the likelihood the person will grab you and pull you under the water.

Wear a Life Jacket – If you are attempting to rescue a drowning victim in an open body of water like a river or lake, put on a life jacket before you enter the water (and if possible secure yourself to your boat or shore with a rope). Conditions in the water will be unknown and you will not know if you will be fighting currents. The life jacket could save your life and the victim’s.

Watch for Signs of Secondary Drowning – People who experience a drowning incident can still have water in their lungs hours later and need to be watched closely for signs of trouble breathing, which could indicate a secondary drowning emergency. If difficult breathing is noted after a drowning, immediately seek medical help and call 911.

–To find a USSSA affiliated swim school near you, or for details on becoming a member of the nation’s leading swim school organization visit Usswimschools.org.

Share : Someone’s Drowning? Here’s What To Do

previous:
next: