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July 12, 2004
Experts Dispel Drowning Myths, Stress Safety Tips
Extra! Read All Aboat It!
AUSTIN, Texas — Contrary to what’s portrayed in movies, drowning victims usually don’t scream and splash when in distress — they just go underwater.
"When we encourage people to watch over your family near the water, we’re encompassing several messages, including never swim alone, keep a close watch on friends and family in the water, and keep a constant eye on children," said Steve Hall, education director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Hall recommends that groups or families assign one person to keep a constant watch on both adults and children in and near the water.
"It’s especially important to be aware of hazards when you’re on an open water body like a lake, river or bay," added Hall. "Someone who is a weak swimmer may be in the water at waist level and their next step could be a 10-foot drop-off."
Practical advice from water rescue experts includes the steps, "reach, throw, then row."
The first step is to use a rope, tree branch or other object to try to reach the swimmer from shore. The next step is to throw something buoyant such a life jacket, inner tube or a plastic foam ice chest. If the first two steps fail, put on a life jacket and row out to the swimmer with a boat or a raft.
"Unfortunately, we see many multiple drowning cases where folks go into the water to rescue a friend or a loved one who is drowning and they end up becoming a drowning victim as well," said Alfonso Campos, chief of marine enforcement at TPWD.
"It’s essential that you first try to help the swimmer using the reach, throw, and row method. If those steps don’t work and you must go into the water because there is no other option, it’s essential that you wear a life jacket, take a flotation device for the swimmer, and call for help or alert someone before you head into the water," he said.
TPWD is responsible for enforcing the Texas Water Safety Act on all public waters, certifying boater education students and instructors, and maintaining statistics about water-related fatalities in Texas. TPWD also offers boating safety classes.
For more information about water safety, visit the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/boat/wsdigest.htm).
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