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Show HN: Spot the Drowning Child (spotthedrowningchild.com)
1215 points by omegaworks on July 28, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 378 comments

I would like to point out that any flotation device in a pool besides a life jacket is just asking for problems.

I life-guarded for almost 10 years, the only way I would ever let anything that supported a human floating __besides__ an approved life jacket was if the pool was almost empty (such that the one person got my undivided attention) and if I knew the child to already be a strong swimmer.

I highly encourage everyone reading this to not swim at pools that allow floats of any kind besides a life jacket, even something as simple as water wings. [0] It encourages kids to go deeper than they should, and if they fall off they're in big trouble. It creates the possibility for a child to get trapped under someone else, and a life guard has almost no chance in that scenario.

95% of guarding is preventive.

Neat site though.

[0] Water wings can create the situation where a child has their head underwater and their arms up above water, but they can't pull themselves up.

When I was a young child, my local pool allowed kids to play on large floating foam rafts (like this, but half the length: http://goo.gl/7Y4HbU). One day I decided to show off my underwater swimming skills to a girl I fancied. After a long swim underwater, I exhausted my breath and came to resurface for air, only to get caught under a stacked pile of 5 of these rafts, with kids standing on top like in that photo! I panicked and didn't know what was going on. I don't remember what happened next, but I am told my father was watching me closely and jumped into the pool, pushed the mats off of me (thus throwing like 4 kids off the rafts into the water) and saved me.

Parents were angry at him for throwing their kids into the water. None of them even realized I had almost died. Not that I blame them though, it would probably look pretty funny to see a grown man knock 4 kids off some mats into the pool haha.

I once got "trapped" under one of those big diving rafts they put in lakes[1]. I swam down after one of those colored diving rings, and the wind blew the raft over me while I was under.

I was a pretty strong swimmer at that point, and more than a little lucky as well. I was able to collect my thoughts and get out.

I'm told I was only under there for about ten seconds, but my memory of it feels like about 2-3 minutes. It was easily the scariest thing that ever happened to me personally as a child.

[1]-Like this, but without the gap in the middle: http://www.aquacycleusa.com/aqua-cycle-swim-raft

Once we did rafting and our monitor guy told us: when you fall into the water and find yourself under the boat, just don't panic. Don't try to move your head up but rather chose whatever direction and swim until you reach the either side. We thought it would never happen, but we ended up few times in the water just like just like that. And even though it's just a few seconds you are quite disoriented and at first time don't know what to do.

Sounds like an easy thing to practice? Go to a pool with a boat, dive under the boat, and practice getting out.

Like people who do kayaking practice how to get out when the kayak turns upside down.

I came to realize that a lot of things in life are easy when you practice beforehand. It's a good idea to identify things you don't expect how to handle and then go and learn to handle them. It's especially important to learn how to use the tools you may need in emergency so that they won't surprise you when you need to use them quickly. Otherwise having those tools only gives you false sense of confidence, which may be dangerous.

So for instance, I bought a fire extinguisher and used it up in some deserted bushes. It was a small expense, but now I'm fully aware how this particular type of extinguishers behave. Or when a friend wanted to buy mace (she was coming home late at night), we bought two and used up one for doing target practice, so that she's aware how the fluid stream behaves and how to aim it.

The biggest problem with this approach that I find is that there are so many things you could prepare yourself. Even if it usually would just take a few minutes and little to no expense, you can't train for things you don't realize exist as concepts or situations. For instance, thanks to this subthread it is the first time it occured to me that a situation like obstructed surface when diving in a pool can occur. I'm adding it to my mental list of things to prepare for when I get the opportunity.

Having done whitewater kayaking for a long time I cannot stress this enough. You need to practice being under water with being denied surfacing even if you strongly want to.

Once you are calm, you can orient yourself by observing air bubbles for example, even in turbulent water.

Yeah, I remember the same thing happening to me as well when I was young. Luckily in my case I had enough air to use my hands to pull myself along the underside to the edge. But you instantly thought "That was far too close". I wonder if they still have those in schools with pools nowadays.

Your humorous view on an otherwise harrowing story brought a smile to my face. Glad you made it. My dad was a life-guard though I never asked him for any stories, I should do that.

So, how'd that go over with the girl?

As I guy with a young child, who ditched floaties and makes him always swim with a life jacket, thank you.

And thanks for watching other people's kids. Wage or not, that job can become real rewarding, especially once you are the humiliated and terrified parent.

I do not even let my kid walk around our community pool without it on!

A thankless job too, I remember hating life guards growing up because they would blow their whistle at all sorts of things. They aren't trying to be jerks of course, but that was my perception when I was very young and just loved swimming. Being older I see how tough that job would be.

I lifeguarded throughout high school and college, and it always surprised me that most of the difficulties I had were with parents/adults. For the most part, kids would give a sullen look and then listen. My only memorable troubles were the occasional adults who would just flat-out ignore or contradict rules, no matter how many times you told them (I always assumed because they thought they knew better than a ~15 year old). At that point, you have a young lifeguard who has to choose between causing a minor scene (ie: whistling a manager over to "tattle" on them) or having other children see rules not being consistently enforced, which they perceive as license to do whatever they want.

I made one rescue after a little girl faceplanted from the high dive and came up crying and clearly struggling - the whole time I was helping her to the wall, I had her mom yelling at me from the pool deck that "she's fine, you're just scaring her!" I came away from that second-guessing myself - that maybe I SHOULDN'T have gone in after her, and that I should've just let it play out a little more - which is a really scary thing to second-guess.

I would imagine that the go-to for situations like this is "Ma'am, just following my training."

I (obviously) wasn't there but it sounds like you did the right thing.

At the end of the day you were the one sitting in the chair and had to make a judgement call based on your training and observations.

Think of this way - if you hadn't reacted as you did and the girl ended up injured or dead, how much worse would you feel today?

hey, look at it this way. the girl was fine. by definition, you did your job well. that's the best desired outcome of all cases, whether or not you made the wrong call.

To be fair, some life guards are really boring martinets with no sense of fun.

Other life guards dive into the deep end from the exhaust hatch in the ceiling after the pool is closed to the public.

I'm thankful for both types but I slightly favor the latter.

If you get to know the lifeguards, most of them prefer the latter. I distinctly remember taking 2 umbrellas, one in each hand, and after climbing up onto the guardshack, taking a running leap into the pool.

Needless to say I had to buy 2 umbrellas least my boss found out.

I always likes horsing around with the kids, when we developed a relationship such that they listened to the rules, which really wasn't asking a lot. Don't run, don't dunk people, get out when I ask you do (adult swim, thunder/lighting) and stay out of the deep end if you haven't passed the swim test.

There are boring guards, just like there are boring people. I have found that men and women (mostly teenagers at that point) who elect to hang out in their bathing suits (read: basically underwear) 40 hours a week are usually a lot of fun to be around. There is a specific sense of self-confidence that I never really thought about until replying to your comment.

I was around four-five years old when I was first allowed into the deep pool with some float equipment. I was like a fish and liked diving. Couldn't swim though.

When I jumped into the deep pool my floating equipment was pushed off. I panicked and struggled for my life until I somehow got to the side and then managed to get up by myself. And no-one noticed.

I stayed away from deep water until I could swim properly.

When I was 11, I had just discovered I could kind-of swim and somehow decided to try swimming across a rather large lake. By the time I realized that was a dumb idea, I was halfway across. I collapsed from exhaustion and threw up several times after I (somehow) got across.

When I was a teenager I was in Boy Scouts. Every year we went to a summer camp that was on the edge of a large pond [1]. And one of the strictest rules there was that you were not allowed in the water until you'd passed the swimming competency test (and you had to pass it again every single year), and the main swimming test was that you had to swim laps in their roped-off section of the lake without pausing until you'd swum for at least half of the distance across the lake (thus ensuring that if you were to be dropped smack dab into the middle of the lake, you could swim out). We had to do this even though most scouts never even had a reason to go outside the small roped-off section and thus would never be required to actually swim to shore.

I also remember one year doing a lifeguarding merit badge where we did various things like tread water for an excessively long period of time, practice towing other people to shore, and even a bit where we had to jump into the water fully clothed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and learn how to float regardless (basically by inflating our shirt with air). That stuff was hard. Also one bit where we started on shore, fully-clothed including jeans, socks, laced-up boots, etc, and had to ditch as much clothing as possible and run into the water within an extremely short period of time (the idea being if we saw someone drowning, we had to be able to get in the water to effect a rescue as fast as possible).

[1] New England has a habit of calling large bodies of water "ponds" even though most other places would call them lakes

Man, BSA lifeguard was rigorous as hell. It was the only legitimately serious course that the camp offered, and it was not for beginners. I failed it the first year, and it taught me a lot about the difference between "can swim" and "competent swimmer."

They later changed it to a gimme course because of "hazing" complaints, which I thought was awful.

I didn't even consider trying the lifeguarding merit badge for the first couple of years. I doubt I could have done it back then.

> They later changed it to a gimme course

That sucks. I'm also kind of surprised to hear that, because BSA does not usually skimp on safety, and anyone with the lifeguarding merit badge should be capable of actually saving someone's life.

That was by far my proudest merit badge. I felt like such a badass when I passed.

Ah, I got to do some military training involving jumping into a pool with weapons, armor, and helmet. Swimming in boots is hard.

Yeah I bet. Jeans are pretty fun. They get amazingly heavy and restrictive.

Took my young son to a cub scout camp this summer. The swim test was just as grueling. My son didn't pass at all even though he has had swim lessons and can swim. He was just too nervous at the testing aspect of it.

I swam two out of two and a half laps, but I didn't pace myself well enough, and I ended up having to stop. Partially, I was out of breath, partially, my shoulder was bothering me due to a healed fracture from a car accident last fall. First time I had done any significant amount of swimming since then and didn't realize how far from 100% I was. Was a bit embarrassing getting the "beginner" swim label, but I had to be a good role model and take my lumps.

Curious: what camp in New England?

Honestly, it's been so long, I forget. I actually did a bit of searching when I wrote that to see if I could find the camp, but I had no luck. It looks like the Boy Scout Council my troop was a member of has changed what summer camp they use in the many years since I was last there, and I can't actually find any reference to what the name of the old camp was.

What do you think of this style of lifejacket/water wings? http://www.amazon.com/Stearns-Puddle-Jumper-Deluxe-Jacket/dp...

That's what we use with our two year old son, though he's also only in pools with one-on-one attention. I'd prefer to just take him to shallower pools, but his feet just don't touch in any of our local pools, and puddle jumper seemed like a good option for him to have a little independent exploration in the water.

After looking it up, it is a coast guard approved flotation device, so I would have allowed it at my pools. That was my rule, and it was always nice having that when parents questioned my rule. Things like rafts, boogie boards, round tubes, noodles, those were the big no-no's.

We use those too and they are totally safe. The difference between those and the classic floaties is these can't come off, which I remember happening all the time with the old style.

My 2 year old can actually get these off. We had to switch to a normal life vest that has a strap that goes underneath, by his crotch.

If the kid is determined enough, they can indeed come off.

they're great, have several for my kid. One at grandparents houses, and one at home. Class 3 Coast Guard approved, really happy with them.

Nitpick but it's Type 3 (III), not a class ("Class" gives me the impression it's a higher or lower rating of device).

Thanks, I saw the original comment and thought, oh no I just bought some new water wings for my son, and now I can't use them. Luckily I bought the ones you linked and now I know they are coast guard approved. Thank goodness for a wife who is detail oriented.

When I was a kid I put water wings on my ankles so I could walk on the water like Jesus. I fell over within 0.5 seconds of entering the pool and they held me upside down with my feet sticking out. I remember thinking I was going to die right up until my Mom jumped in and saved me.

I was very close to drown when diving, and someone planted a 6 cm high, and 2*1 meter wide foam block[0] on top of where I had planned to surface, and I was caught underneath without much air.

[0] http://shopdolphin.dk/139h/images/35111.jpg

I've never been close to drowning from something like that, but I've definitely felt that panic set in when you start swimming for the surface and then bump into a big float that wasn't there when you went down

I don't mean any disrespect, and I do agree with the point about "encourages them to go deeper...", but I think "any flotation device" "besides a life jacket" is a little bit hardcore. We can't make everything 100% fool proof and 100% safe in every way without removing all activities. Parents need to pay attention to their kids' swimming abilities and govern their activities accordingly. If a kid can't swim really well, the wave pool (or at least the deep end of one) is not a safe place to be at all.

Less than 1000 deaths by drowning is a really small number in a country with tens of millions of children swimming every year.

So I'll admit, I didn't set the rules, I enforced them. I agreed with them, but I was not the rule-setter.

I'll also say that I could find ~1000 families who are probably devastated every year, most likely any marriage that existed was challenged, and possibly broken up. Lives changed forever. Why? So some kid who can't swim could float in 6 feet of water for a few minutes.

Yes it is on parents as well. I am a parent. Fortunately I can swim well. I am not the parent that takes their child to the kiddie pool, and while I'm in the middle of a sneeze, my child takes off and jumps feet-first into the "big" pool, and I can't do anything to save them because I can't swim.

I'll agree 100% that the parents that showed up at my pool and took a 2 hour nap, those were bad parents. I woke them up when their child was misbehaving, and sometimes just because I was severely annoyed.. My guards were guards, not baby-sitters.

Perhaps my child is hanging out with friends, and one of the friends parents takes them all to the community pool. I'm not there. Is is still on me as a parent?

I understand and appreciate your comment. Life just isn't that simple sometimes.

The issue is with the parents, who just want to let the kid in the pool so they can go back to their phone.

I do volunteer work with my local surf live saving club, looking after the kids in the under 7 program. It is exhausting work standing in the surf watching 30-40 kids at once. Most parents see it as a child-minding surface and are content to sit way up on the beach with a coffee and a phone.

The point is the parents - in many if not the majority of cases - don't pay attention to their kids swimming abilities.

I would think it should be common sense to not go to the deep end without a life saving device if I don't know how to swim.

Sometimes I get cramps(? Not sure if right word?) In my legs that hamper my ability to swim. It scares me to think what I'd do if I had to swim in anything other than a small pond. I'm not a good swimmer to begin with.

When I was a kid I was using these life belt, one day I flipped upside down, my feet were up in the air, my head bellow water. I couldn't flip again, I almost died if it wasn't for my dad who jumped in the water to rescue me after a while.

water wings are also terrible at teaching kids to swim: they can't properly use their arms wearing wings.

I had both my kids (currently 3 and 5) learn to swim by having them wear inflatable vests. When they started they had fully inflated vests. every week or so I would deflate it bit by bit, until they are wearing a fully deflated vest. At that point the vest is just for emotional support, and they can pretty much handle the water without drowning (though still need proper lessons of course)

The funny thing is that I remember as a kid using a borrowed set of water wings (I'm assuming those are the inflatable things that go on the upper arms?). I was like 9 years old, and could barely swim by doing a back stroke (floating on my back, and somewhat making my way across the water). But when I put those water wings on, it gave me just enough support that I learned that afternoon how to do a breast stroke and side stroke, and ended up being a fairly strong swimmer after that (only used them that one time though).

interesting! I'll try mixing that in when they get to learning backstroke!

That makes me think. Could one make a remote inflatable vest? Basically, one of those vests they equip aircraft with, but with a remote control attached as well. While deflated, it wouldn't have a significant effect on buoyancy or encumbrance, so the child could learn to swim naturally. If one notices one's child in distress one could inflate it with the push of a button.

and listening to the child's various physiological indicators, so can auto-deploy itself. (and/or notify you of a potential issue)

And when it fails, and a toddler dies, the lawsuit would be enough to totally bankrupt the startup. Simply not worth the risk. I like the idea of using reactive technology to improve the cruft of aversion-type devices though.

I feel like this is why Hovding says it's "not intended for people under the age of 15". It's not that it wouldn't work most of the time, if not "all but a single time" and are simply protecting themselves from a possible lawsuit.

What's to prevent a condom-like "99% success rate" as legal backing for "haha can't sue us if it fails because we didn't promise 100% success rate"? Even though, effectively and when used properly, they have a 100% success rate... it's just there for legal reasons to prevent lawsuits.

[0] http://www.hovding.com/

When we put both my young kids through swim lessons, they were taught with "bubbles", little foam blocks that are strapped to the middle of the back, and the number of bubbles are reduced as their proficiency increases. That left their arms and chest free to work on actual swimming form. When working on kicks, they held on to little floating dumbell bars.

I just commented on this on Twitter..

My first comment was asking why most of the people were in those rubber things. If most of them can't swim, it is really dangerous for it calls for a high level of alertness on the life-guard part when the people shouldn't be there in the first place. And no, that's not really the job of the life-guard to watch over all of those.

That's like putting someone to watch over a large number of drunk people moving around and having fun in a porcelain shop and make sure none of them breaks anything.

A person unable to swim simply doesn't belong in a swimming pool deep enough that she can drown. She should be the exception rather than the norm.

I may seem dramatic, but this is really a bad thing waiting to happen. And it's already happening. If you couldn't spot the kids in that cluster-mess, that's bad news.

In my opinion, those who don't know yet how to swim should be in a pool of an appropriate depth. This is why you have different pools for swimmers and non-swimmers, or one pool with a gradient of depths.

Also the people responsible for the kid.. if the kid will be in the water unattended, the top priority is to make sure he's comfortable in the water (how to float, how to relax, etc).

Nobody should drown in a darn swimming pool! It's a darn swimming pool!

As a kid I always hated water wings. Luckily my parents gave up on them pretty quick too. They made it hard to move your arms properly and didn't provide good floatation anyway.

The biggest danger seems to be parents who let their children swim before they know how.

Having guarded for several years at a popular club (and having had one of only two requires saves at the club in my tenure) I can tell you this isn't true. I will allow that their parents should pay closer attention (or attention at all).

Fatigue sets in quickly (and sometimes almost instantly). In my case it was a young girl who was a fine swimmer (on the swim team) and had been playing in the pool all day on a hot and crowded July day. She got a little far away from the wall in an area between 5-6 feet, very much like the video, and suddenly found herself struggling to break the surface of the water.

It happens fast, and can happen to kids you would never suspect would find themselves in trouble.

> "very much like the video, and suddenly found herself struggling to break the surface of the water."

I am unable to view OP's site at the moment so I'm not sure if you mean there was something on top of her.

Anyway, in open water "being able to swim" should include a "rescue/recovery float" ability. AKA, the ability to float indefinitely with little or no expended effort (ideally no effort at all, but some people have body builds which make light sculling necessary). If they can't do that, they aren't ready to swim in deep water.

That is the standard we used when I was a lifeguard and swim instructor (well, instructor assistant).

> I am unable to view OP's site at the moment so I'm not sure if you mean there was something on top of her.

No, there was no flotation device blocking the surface in any of the videos.

Only if unsupervised. It's very easy to underestimate how quickly things can change.

On a slightly more positive note, this is a clip from BBCs Fantastic The Human Body. It talks about and shows the natural abilities of babies to swim at a very early age. If you're politically correct/sensitive, you may want to skip it. It does show genitals. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fbSCSHzXkrI


They conflate 'can swim across shallow pool' with 'johnny can swim now, so I can relax'.

I have already heard two kids claim they can swim, when later it turned out they can only swim with water wings.

This video is one I recognize from the series of pool rescues that was on HN a few days back. Having watched a number of videos from that wave pool, I can confirm that "kid flips tube after climbing on it and is dumped face down" is probably the #1 thing that leads to a rescue.

That said, if you're watching for them, I just sort of defocus to watch the whole pool at once and look for the particular splashes of the drowning person's "swim" that become distinctive after you've seen it enough times.

Cheers to a fellow lifeguard! It was a great summer job in high school and my first year of college.

My 20 month old has one of these Shark Fins: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SwimFin-3PK-Angelfish-Pink/dp/B001JR...

I assume that they are good as he uses them in his swimming classes and with it he can swim a few metres to the side of the pool.

If I'm being honest, this is the kind of thing I would not have allowed. As you describe, your child can make it a few meters away from the side of the pool. Then what?

If your child gets tired, this will not help. This looks like it forced the child into a face-down position, and a tired child forced to be face-down in water doesn't seem like a great idea.

As a fellow parent of a 1.5 year old, I'm sure you've heard of latent drowning. [0] This device seems like it could promote the chances of that happening as well.

[0] https://www.parentmap.com/article/how-a-child-can-drown-5-ho...

Does not appear to be Coast Guard Approved (nearly every PFD that is approved mentions that it is Coast Guard Approved if it is).

On Amazon you can shop for flotation devices that are "Coast Guard Approved" specifically. I would highly recommend getting one that is.

Looks reasonable as a support when your child is being taught how to swim (and is thus closely monitored). Looks absolutely horrible as a means of preventing your kid from drowning though.

disclaimer: I'm not in any way a professional when it comes to water safety, so this is just a remark; not advice.

Yea, it looks like a useful tool to provide support while following the warnings:

Warning: Not suitable for children under 36 months Warning: Only to be used in water in which the child is within its depth and under adult supervision Warning: To be used under the direct supervision of an adult

I don't think it's a mistake that "under adult supervision" is said twice.

I'd definitely not let him out of my reach, he's far too young.

When I was younger (say, 7 or 8 years old), I considered myself a good swimmer and as part of my swimming lessons we were told to do length-ways with the aid of a swimming board [0] at arms' length.

Approaching the 3/4 mark of the length, I felt it slipping out of my hands and in my panic, I went down. I woke up after being resuscitated after a lifeguard noticed I was in trouble under the water. He had jumped from the top step of his high chair straight in apparently and literally threw me out of the water to a waiting colleague.

Not sure if I'd trust my own children with that type of flotation aid again, but as you said, it encouraged me to swim outside of my comfort zone and I panicked so perhaps more control is needed of when and where it is used.

[0] http://runforthethrills.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/kick-...

As far as I see it, there are two use cases for a pool, swimming and fun. I'd agree with you if you were talking about a pool with swimming lanes. The point of the pool in the video on the website is to have fun. If you make it safe, you kill the fun.

    > If you make it safe, you kill the fun.
It puts a damper on things when someone drowns too.

You are right, of course, but that's why things shouldn't be black and white. There is a difference between banning everything except "approved" life jackets and banning large inflatable pads which children could get stuck under. If you look at the website, the majority of people in the pool are hanging on the blue inflatable tubes. They would not be in the pool at all if they had to actually swim.

It would be nice to know from you which PFD you would recommend from say this list at amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_pn_1?fst=as%3Aoff&rh=i%...

There are tons of all kinds of floaties in every pool I've seen in BC, Canada. The life guards seems pretty strict there, but maybe not for banning floaties.

I have no lifeguarding experience nor education, but what you are saying seems important. Any known research or training practices for lifeguards that would support your claim? I could start a dialogue with our local pool with something like that.


I don't know anything about your old profession but I know that every adventure bath place I've been to in Sweden with a wave maker have always asked everyone to take all toys out of the water before the wave maker starts.

At family pool parties I had a cousin who thought it was a fun game to try to trap me underneath a raft to prevent me from surfacing for air. He was 12, I was 8. Fun times. Learned how to hold my breath, that's for sure.

You're lucky you never drowned.

That would make for a pretty fucking boring pool, honestly. No flotation devices would mean that all I could do as a kid would be to stand around on my tiptoes.

I was tempted to go on a diatribe about your comment, but I'll leave it at this: my job was to guard lives, not provide entertainment.

Nobody died, which gave every person I guarded the opportunity to pursue an anti-boring life in whatever way they see fit.

I'm not saying you drew the line in the wrong place, as I know nothing about the subject, but surely you could also close the pool so nobody can use it for the same reason of "saving lives, not providing entertainment"

Well no, I couldn't. I was paid to run the pool, not close it.

There are a lot of ways to have fun at a pool without flotation devices that endanger lives. I can provide a list if you'd like.

You could run the pool by saying any child under 16 needs to be accompanied into the pool by an adult and can never be more than 2m away from that adult, one adult per child. Hell why only children, everyone in the pool needs one designated person they won't go more than 2m away from so they can watch each other.

You could introduce a rule that nobody can speak or make any noises that aren't a direct result of swimming, so that when someone is in trouble it's easier to hear them and/or someone else alerting to the problem.

Both of those would still be running the pool, both of them would make it easier to keep people from drowning, and it wouldn't be impossible to have fun. It would be much less fun, but not impossible.

But you've drawn a line that those rules would be going too far, whereas banning flotation devices isn't too far. You've balanced in your mind safety vs. entertainment to see what's worth doing and what isn't. I'm not arguing with your decisions, I know nothing about keeping swimmers safe, I'm just saying in response to "my job was to guard lives, not provide entertainment" that if you really didn't care about anything other than saving their lives you could be much stricter and make the pool much less fun, but a tiny bit more safe.

Well hopefully it would be an impetus to learn to swim instead of instigating dangerous situations that floatation devices put non-swimmers in.

A few weeks ago I was sitting 6 feet from the edge of a community pool while many parents and their children were swimming. Out of nowhere one of the lifeguards on the opposite end blows her whistle, jumps in and swims frantically across the pool to rescue a drowning boy 3 feet away from his mother. She was literally looking at him and didn't recognize he was drowning.

The mother and child were only about 10 feet from me and even I didn't recognize it, and I was a lifeguard 15 years ago! That experience frightened me more than most because it showed me how bad I and others are at recognizing drowning.

Glad that this exists so more people understand what drowning really looks like.

can't we have something like those fitness bands to be worn by children while in the pool - once a person starts drowning the heartbeat and other lifesigns are changing very characteristically and that can just turn the red light on lifeguards console on.

A summer camp I went to when I was younger was very heavily focused on swimming and water craft. We had 3 different colored bands to indicate your swimming ability. Red if you couldn't swim well, yellow if you were OK, but not enough for the deep end and green for the deep end. The counselors tested and trained the kids to go up the color bands, which was pretty neat, but I realize now that it was also a way to keep an eye on weaker swimmers. I think red bands had to have a life jacket on even while in the pool on the shallow end.

There was also the coveted blue band, which you could only get by doing a very rigorous set of tests and passing junior lifeguard training. I had to swim who knows how many laps and tread water for like an hour, plus lift bricks up off the pool floor and various other lifeguard-related things. The blue bands were super "rare" and I realize now it was just an inventive way to encourage the kids to swim better and harder.

Not exactly the same bands you were talking about, but a cheaper alternative and a good way to keep control and prevent drownings before they happen.

I would have been a blue band in your system. My parents moved to Cornwall when I was child, surrounded on 3 sides by water, I gained my surf lifesaving certificate, I was a good swimmer.

Almost two decades passes. I'm in Bali, on a deserted beach with my ex because we "don't want the average experience" or whatever. A small argument and I decide I want a swim. I walk out through the surf, my mind overcome with thoughts of the pathetic argument. I don't think about the undulating sand beneath my feet, but I should. Not even 2 minutes into my swim and I'm out a good 200m. I've swam 10km before in the sea, I'm fit enough, but I had been in a bicycle accident and fractured my dominant arm just 8 weeks prior. My natural confidence, my training, my accolades had resulted in my taking an unknown sea for granted. I looked to the sure, my girlfriend had vanished, no doubt going to lick her wounds from our previous verbal exchange.

I can honestly say the human mind is a strange thing under pressure. I thought back to being 12 and outright laughing at the tourists (emits, slang for ants in Cornish) who died every year often through a mix of alcohol and poor planning. The realisation of such past hubris was overwhelming. I also realised that the people I knew from there would be laughing at my death. I was now well over 1km from shore. My mind kicked in properly, I started swimming hard normal to the rip tide. After 5 minutes of treading water and thinking hard some rocks where looking achievable, so I decided to give it all in the hope of getting there, a fast sprint was my plan and thankfully this worked.

If ever I thought I'd given 100% to a physical activity before I was mistaken. My legs bore the brunt of this assault, my upper-body was uncoordinated due to the cycling injury. My watch was telling me I had been hard going for barely 10 minutes. I was not even half the way, my fear I think allowed for adrenaline to kick in, I was at this point making peace with death of drowning, as an asthmatic a death that has always scared me.

I made it to the rocks and to my joy I didn't need to climb along them, the rip tide was no more. I made it to shore. A half hour swim that had been like no other I've ever had and I hope will ever have. I was so upset with my ex for leaving me. Not watching nor caring as I had asked and she agreed. Going into the unknown water without someone aware is folly and I thought she would be observing me. Anger and most likely just bordem resulted in her not doing so.

TLDR: I was a good swimmer, I still so very nearly killed myself. Knowing when someone is in trouble requires education.

Why did you swim against a rip current?

> normal to the rip tide

as an engineer, I assumed this ('normal') meant across/perpendicular/90 degrees to the rip tide, not against it ...

I believe 90 degrees to a rip tide is the correct thing to do ...

Yes, that's what they meant. Rip tides aren't usually that wide. The best thing to do if you get caught in one is to remain calm and swim perpendicular to the current.

The real shame is you went on a beautiful vacation and ended up in an argument with your spouse. I hope you don't resent your spouse for getting up and leaving, especially since you put yourself in the position to swim while not mindful of your environment.

Also, a back-float is always generally a good strategy in salt water conditions when you've lost control or strength to swim. You carry over common waves and it takes very little energy.

Honestly, it sounds like you panicked.

Yeah, I'm having a hard time seeing how laying on your back to catch your breath is a bad idea. I thought everybody did that when swimming for extended periods of time.

The parent does mention swimming against a rip current, which would explain the need to swim at maximum physical exertion for an extended period of time. In that case I don't think he panicked.

> which would explain the need to swim at maximum physical exertion for an extended period of time

Huh? Why are people writing this? You don't swim against a rip current.

My local YMCA branch does the same thing, all minors are required to have a red, yellow or green breakaway necklace that indicate swimming level - kids with red bands cannot be in anything but the 1'6" kiddie pool without an adult within arms reach (parents still have to be supervising regardless), kids with yellow bands cannot go in the deep end of the pool but can be in the shallow end alone.

It's a really smart idea, and while even an excellent swimmer can become fatigued the more experienced ones will be less likely to need aid than the less experienced ones.

Looks like this guy tried, although there really isn't much interesting detail there: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-seal-wearable-swim-mo...

They would be expensive (compared to other swim equipment) and prone to error. I would much rather just train life guards professionally. :)

with regard to price i just googled randomly: http://www.amazon.com/Pulse-Oximeter-Blood-Oxygen-Monitor/dp...

Unfortunately that type would not work in a pool... they barely work with significant movement, never mind when there's water sloshing in and out between the LEDs / light sensors.

of course the googled above device wouldn't work as it is. It was only a random google just to gauge the scale of money such tech costs.

Costwise, I think that would be in the ball-park, if we can figure out what to monitor, and how, it could most likely be manufactured for <$10.

I do work in this field (wireless vital signs monitoring) and unfortunately I don't know of any current technology that I would trust to monitor heart rate on a swimmer other than perhaps a chest strap (but not as a safety device either). For a point of reference, the Apple watch fails to accurately record heart rate when very sweaty or experiencing periodic movement (such as the periodic arm waving).

There was a kickstarter project for a swim safety device (mentioned by others in this thread) but I believe that was based around picking up the arm movement characteristic of this response, which may be a sensible approach (I don't know enough about the characteristic motions of the drowning response vs regular splashing).

just googled more :) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse_oximetry - an adapted for waterpool conditions earlobe oximeter is probably what is needed here (with probably a transmitter/amplifier with battery in the wristband). But currently it is in the $100+ territory.

It's not that simple unfortunately. One concern I have is that the oscillatory motion of the drowning response is well within the range of cardiac rates (1-3Hz from the video). Pulse oximetry data is quite noisy and is especially affected by motion affecting the sensing apparatus. Pulse Oximeters employ algorithms to attempt to reject noise (including noise from motion). Unfortunately these algorithms tend to depend on the cyclical nature of the heartbeat signal (using FFT or auto-correlation to latch onto the heartbeat signal, for example). The presence of an oscillatory confounding signal (noise induced from the motion of the drowning subject) would significantly reduce the reliability of these algorithms.

A device for alerting for a drowning subject would be classified as a medical device (in Europe most likely class IIb as it is measuring a vital function in a life support scenario) as the malfunction of the device could fail to prevent the saving of a life. The burden of certification of such a device is understandably high, and one would have to be able to demonstrate that the device can accurately and reliably measure in its intended use and show that any risk that it doesn't has been adequately reduced (I'm simplifying greatly).

Unfortunately it's basically impossible to test, after all how would one get ethical approval for exposing subjects to conditions of near-drowning, so one would be dependent on placing prototype devices on swimmers and catching episodes of near-drowning by chance. It would take a considerable length of time to gather sufficient data to confirm the reliability of the device under such conditions, obviously...

(and no, I would not consider it appropriate to test the device under general swimming conditions as these would not adequately predict performance under drowning conditions).

In terms of cost, an earlobe pulse oximeter doesn't have to be more expensive than a fingertip one (aside from some miniaturisation costs perhaps) but part of the costs of these devices is due to patent issues: http://www.law360.com/articles/106524/philips-accuses-pulse-...

That might be too expensive to hand out to everyone at the pool, but if it were workable for this application it would definitely be in range for something to sell directly to parents.

It wouldn't be able to interface with a device the lifeguard has in this case, but it could surely start making noise and/or flashing in an emergency.

How easy is it to tell the difference between an elevated heartbeat due to imminent drowning, and an elevated heartbeat due to having fun?

Drowning can drop heart rate also. I suspect it isn't as simple to detect with low false positives as suggested.


> just hold your breath for couple minutes (or even better - ask somebody physically stronger to "help" you to keep the plastic bag over you head to make sure that you make the time :) and i think you'll learn the difference.

That could easily kill someone, this is totally crazy advice.

It could? I mean it's obviously a terrible idea, but how is forcing someone to hold a full breath for two minutes going to cause them actual major harm? Can oxygen levels actually drop dangerously low that fast? People can hold their breath for that long with barely any setup or practice. Plus having a plastic bag to breathe in and out of should remove a lot of the discomfort and panic since mechanically you're still breathing.

Again, not saying it's a good idea, but the idea that it would kill someone suggests that I'm missing something I should know.

Very similar to blackout. [0] Depriving the brain of oxygen, in general, is a terrible idea and yes it can kill you.

Regardless if it is in a semi-controlled setting and if the intent isn't to continue until you black out but only until you begin breathing in a panic it's still very dangerous. [1]

[0] http://www.today.com/parents/kids-are-passing-out-deadly-hig...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_hypoxia

Well your first link reads like media extrapolating a nationwide trend from next to nothing, and only really talks about the danger of doing it to yourself.

The second link doesn't mention timing except the standard 'five minutes' thing, while holding your breath for two minutes is probably going to lead to somewhere between 60 and 0 seconds of oxygen deprivation.

So I'm still unsure where the risk of dying comes from.

> ask somebody physically stronger to "help" you to keep the plastic bag over you head to make sure that you make the time

Right, that forces you to reach two minutes, and also makes sure the bag will be removed promptly.

As far as I can tell most of the danger comes from the possibility of having someone hold you still while you panic, and that is not what I generally consider deadly.

Really not sure if I'm missing something...

> Right, that forces you to reach two minutes, and also makes sure the bag will be removed promptly.

No, it does not make sure of that, besides it said 'a couple' and not 'two' (depending on the person two might very well be enough to harm them, but some might interpret 'a couple' as being even more than two).

The person was suggested to be there to make sure you can't remove the bag yourself and by the time the bag is finally removed it may simply be too late.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choking_game

"Any activity that deprives the brain of oxygen has the potential to cause moderate to severe brain cell death leading to permanent loss of neurological function ranging from difficulty in concentration or loss of short term memory capacity through severe, lifelong mental disability to death."

Suggesting people do this is highly irresponsible, this is probably the dumbest sub-thread I've seen on HN in all the time that I've been here, which is especially annoying because the main thread is one of the best.

>"Any activity that deprives the brain of oxygen has the potential to cause moderate to severe brain cell death leading to permanent loss of neurological function ranging from difficulty in concentration or loss of short term memory capacity through severe, lifelong mental disability to death."

That cites source 12, which doesn't seem to support the critical "any activity" part of the sentence, at least in terms of how long the oxygen deprivation lasts.

>95.7% of these deaths occurred while the youth was alone

Seems to support my skepticism for a strictly-timed co-operative activity.

I'm not even sure you'd end up in oxygen deprivation at all within a couple minutes when you start with a nice big breath.

I'm sorry you think my question is dumb. I was just hoping to learn something. At this point I'm feeling reasonably confident that I wasn't unaware of important information, and 'dying' was strong hyperbole. I'll note again that I don't support actually doing it.

man, I've put a smile there for a reason... The "help" is brought up as a device to illustrate the difference between at-will fun excitement and against-will panic. No sane person would be forcing another to not breath ( until of course it is a part of the job, ie. like police - chockholding into submission - or military investigators - waterboarding and the like)

Edit: to "mdup" below - i've specifically mentioned "until of course it is a part of the job" above - the major aspect of Milgram experiment was to present to the experiment subjects the shock delivery as a "duty".

Would you say no sane person would inflict 450-volt electric shocks to someone else?


Not going to mention the dangerous advice, already covered by another comment. I'd like to mention this though:

> Specifically to drowning there is also oxygen blood content difference - harder to detect from outside, yet an unmistakable indicator.

CO2 buildup should be a more reliable indicator.

One of the most challenging bits with that is going to be transmitting RF underwater. And an interesting thing to think about is whether or not such a device would end up causing even more accidents, when people start just assuming that "it's ok if I go past my limits, someone will save me"

Underwater RF is no trouble in this case. You have the signal backwards. As long as there is no problem, regularly transmit an identity beacon. Loss of signal is the alert.

How does the regular beacon transmit if it's underwater? Someone standing in the shallow end of the pool or treading water in the deep end may pretty easily keep their wrist underwater for minutes at a time.

There's two things that such a device would need to have: quite low false positives (so that the lifeguard isn't distracted by false alarms - leading to a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario), and vanishingly small false negatives (the first time a kid dies because the device didn't work, it'll be a bad day). In-water RF would be very hard to do to make those two conditions true.

Edit: Don't get me wrong, I think it's a fabulous idea. Wearing my EE hat though, I haven't thought of a good way to do it that would work reliably enough for a life-saving device.

That's a fantastic question. This is probably the right place to ask if there is pattern that can be detected from the wrist. It also makes sense to line the pool edge with lights that can change color, so the bracelet distinctively lights up the grid square of the pool where the drowning is happening, alerting the lifeguard or a strong swimmer nearby.

That would probably cause a good deal of false alarms though.. people that aren't comfortable in water will have elevated heart rates every so often over normal stuff.

Maybe that's not such a bad thing overall though.

My first thought was "Hey this is HN, and that's exactly what PCA is for!"

Followed shortly thereafter by "I wonder where you get/how you generate a dataset of the vital signs of drowning children..."

>"I wonder where you get/how you generate a dataset of the vital signs of drowning children..."

panic attack data set will get you halfway there and panic attacks happen naturally and sufficiently frequently. Add the dataset from something like asthma attacks (unfortunately it is easy to obtain too).

I think this product is trying to solve this by measuring immersion: https://www.iswimband.com/

perhaps a band with a panic button that flashes and makes sound? although I'm very skeptical of any device due to false positives etc

This makes me cringe. I had similar with my child. Was chatting in a pool and they were only under water right behind my back. I fortunately turned round right after they were going under. It would have been so easy to be talking/distracted for a minute and have a more tragic event. There was no noise, you had to actually see it. Everyone should teach their kids to swim as early as possible.

Last time I was at a water park like this, a child was right next to his mom's tube and she didn't recognize that he was having trouble swimming. When his head went under with him struggling I rescued him, she was mostly unphazed.. :-/

When I was about 7 years old, I went to a birthday pool party at a friend's house. I did not know how to swim, and was just standing near the pool, when some other kids pushed me in. I fell in the deep end of the pool, and I had the exact experience described in terms of the drowning response on that site. The other kids didn't know I couldn't swim and assumed I was fine.

I nearly died that day - I tried as hard as I could to put my arms above the water and wave and yell, but I couldn't do much, and I don't really know what happened much after that. Everything went black. For a moment I felt a person touch me underwater, and then it was all black.

I woke up on the concrete next to the pool. I found out later that one of my other classmates had tried to rescue me by pulling me from the pool, but wasn't strong enough to pull me out. His sister, who was older and stronger, had been a lifeguard, dove in and pulled me out. My friend's father was a doctor, and had resuscitated me. They literally saved my life.

To this day, I'm 33, I can swim fine, but I still remember that experience like it was yesterday. I guess those things tend to stick. Whenever I am around a pool, I can't help but try to keep an eye out for people & children, just in case. I saw this one in 0.78s.

This site/video is a really good public safety announcement, especially since the weather just keeps getting hotter and more and more are bound for the pool. Thank goodness for the lifeguard in the video, and all our protectors out there.

Yeah so one of the weird things is that you can't yell when you're drowning. It's not something I'd expect if I didn't know better, I'd expect to at least be able to get some shouts and screams off but it's not actually like that.

In fact I was once swimming with the son of my dad's best friend in his teens, we'd only seen each other once before as our parents lived in different countries after they married. And somehow he went deep into the sea, and at some point I looked back and saw him flapping about. I must've been 15 or so at the time but somehow even though he didn't yell or scream, and even though we'd been pretty far from the beach for like a solid 5-10 minutes (giving me the impression he had no problem swimming), I got the impression he was drowning. I'm glad I responded, but looking back it felt awkward and it wasn't a clear cut situation where you feel this heroic impulse. I didn't know him very well, he was 2-3 years older than me and bigger, and he didn't indicate to me he had issues swimming, maybe he was just playing around (just like my gf likes to lay in pools face down for like a minute at a time, which looks way more suspicious of drowning!), I really didn't want to go up to him and hold him and find out he was totally fine, it'd just be really embarrassing, as if some kid a few years younger has to rescue him at sea. Either way despite him not yelling or anything, I did swim over and grabbed him and he started pushing me down violently as if I was a floatation device, so from there it was pretty clear, and we slowly made it back to the beach and he kept thanking me for years after everytime I see him. I tried to use the rescue techniques I'd learned as a child, to have someone float on your chest basically but that totally failed in the moment and I couldn't create a moment of control to calm him down and instruct him, I just did my best to swim up and to the beach. He basically pushed me down every other second, and then I'd swim up and catch a breather as best as possible, and somehow we made it back like that. Totally exhausted and out of breath right after, can't imagine how he must've felt.

I can definitely appreciate your story. Thank you for your heroic action - people like you are like the people who saved my life. I'd say better safe than sorry, but your story also shows the other flip side - you have to be careful as a rescuer as well.

The explanation on the linked website talks about how it can be difficult (and very dangerous) also for the rescuer, with the person grasping for life. I remember the initial panic I felt when I nearly drowned, but with nobody immediately around me, the panic was short and then followed by blackness as I fell unconscious.

Your story clearly points to the - how do I say it - lack of clarity when someone is drowning or not, and the dangers of rescuing as well. A person in that state of panic is simply in pure fight-or-flight mode trying to survive and that can be quite dangerous to rescuers.

as an aside - there's actually multiple videos (not sure how many), so you can play repeatedly

27. Videos are hosted on youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/LifeguardRescue11/videos), so you can easily watch them in sequence.

There's only 6 used by the game thus far: https://github.com/FrankSalad/spot-the-drowning-child/blob/1...

For me, the second video was different but it kept repeating, so after 6 tries I quit. Also, it's impossible to navigate back to a sequence of the video, so I couldn't train to see when the child started to go wrong. There's also no link to Youtube. And finally on the iPad the background is black and the video is black and doesn't start, so I really wondered what the website was about at the beginning. Typical example of how doing less design and not removing Youtube's default controls would have helped. The rest of the website is a great idea implemented with talent, despite the details I teport.

I witnessed a scene like this a while ago and it was such a pure horror, that I still get tears in my eyes when recalling the event.

I was lying with my wife next to the pool, casually watching. A small boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old, stepped to the ladder and climbed down into the water, in a completely confident, unspectacular way. With the water up to his neck, he did not start to swim, though, but just continued downwards, slowly to the ground of the basin. I loved to enter the pool this way as a little boy as well.

The boy made no movement underneath the water, at all. He just sank to the ground and that was it. There was nothing suspicious, and it took us some time to realize that he would not come back up. I would guess roughly two minutes. Then we and some people in the pool realized he was not moving for too long. The boy was quickly recovered, lifeguards rushed in and reanimated the boy. It was a remote location and it took the emergency doctors 15 minutes to arrive, in which the boy was puking, caughing and barking his soul out. His mother was just 10 meters away when it happened and had a complete nervous breakdown when they reanimated the child in front of her eyes.

So there was a happy end, but we were shocked to the bones that a child almost drowned in plain sight, 4 meters away from us, WHILE WE WERE WATCHING THE CHILD DROWN. The disturbing point was, that this child showed absolutely no signs of panic - he did not wave the arms, tried not to grab something, made no swimming movements with the legs, just nothing!

A few weeks later I was back in the same water park (which has a dozen of pools and slides) with a group of 7 boys in that age celebrating a birthday. I can tell you, I had no real fun that day, desperately trying to track the bunch and not loose them for a minute.

If you ever enjoy experimenting with babies, this is how they will act when lowered into a pool. They will stand (or sit) on the bottom, holding their breath.

Having a tea party is much easier before you realize the danger consciously.

There's something I don't understand in this statement and in GP's story: when you stay static in the water, provided you don't carry extra weight, you just naturally go up and float to the surface. If you want to stay down, you have to actively move in order to counter Archimedes' force.

The reaction of babies is therefore perfectly adapted: stay calm, hold breath, wait until your lower density brings you back to the surface. Chaotic moves that counter this and burn your blood oxygen is actually what makes you drown yourself.

I think it depends on your density. If I exhale, I will sink. This is an item of curiosity to my wife, who has to work to stay underwater, even after exhaling completely. For more:


Thank you. Nobody believes me, but I sink like a rock too.

> There's something I don't understand in this statement and in GP's story: when you stay static in the water, provided you don't carry extra weight, you just naturally go up and float to the surface. If you want to stay down, you have to actively move in order to counter Archimedes' force.

If you've got a lungful of air. Exhale first, and most people will sink like a stone.

My Dad had a trick, which I've done a few times myself as an adult, where he'd hyperventilate for a bit to get his blood heavily oxygenated, then exhale fully and just lie quietly on the bottom of the pool for a minute or so. (In the shallow end, so he only needed to stand up to breathe.) It's surprisingly soothing; after reading this thread, though, I'm not sure I'd do it at a public pool to avoid freaking out the lifeguard, and I certainly wouldn't teach any kids to do it.

(Floatation also depends a lot on your body fat percentage. Babies are very chubby, so they float, but I can imagine that a real lean kid in the middle of a growth spurt wouldn't be so buoyant.)

Actually, if you're carrying extra weight, you're more likely to float-fat is less dense than water. If you're skin, bones and muscle, you may very well sink without a breath of air.

I sank until I put on weight when I was about 19. Prior to that, with full lungs, I would reach buoyancy with my head about 6 inches under the surface. With no air, I sank like a rock. Now, with much more muscle and fat, I can float at the surface as long as I have some air.


Did the boy do this intentionally? Did he go unconscious when entering the pool? Was he trying to stay under as long as he could? Why was he not moving at all on the way in?

<- Down-mods for relevant questions.

I do not know for sure. My believe is, that kids at that age sometimes simply do not know what they are able to do or not. They watch others, as they climb down the ladder and they just imitate them, somehow expecting the same outcome. This boy for sure was not able to swim, but he probably didn't know it. He perfectly copied the behaviour of other people entering the pool and then was maybe completely stunned that he did not float, but sink, I guess. He was in a age where most kids in Germany are confident swimmers and like to dive as well. It was not obvious to us that something was wrong, because his behaviour was so confident. He did not hesitate to climb down, and there were no sudden unexpected movements when he was under. I mean, we did not watch him specifically and guessed whether he was in trouble or not - he was just behaving just like any other boy. And you do not press the stop watch when a kid enters a pool. It just took some time until our subconscious minds shouted "something is wrong - it is too long!".

He entered the pool, face to the stairs, hands on the rails, continued to climb until the ladder ended (with his head already under water), released the rails, and sank, vertically, until the bottom. It was not a very deep pool, maybe 1.70m or so. He seemed to stand there, as if trying to see how long he could keep his breath. And when he shifted out of the upright position it became obvious that he was in trouble. A man standing next grabbed him, pulled him up, saw the boy was unconscious, started to shout for help and within seconds the boy was out of the pool and the lifeguards took over.

I don't understand why he didn't float? In my experience you bob to the top because of the buoyancy of air in your lungs - not above the water, but you at least float to the surface. Am I wrong?

One might not realize it, but many people who already know how to swim will take a breathe in while lowering themselves into water. When diving to do a cannonball the first thing many swimmers will do is take a deep breathe. Someone who doesn't swim might... not.

A child who doesn't know how to swim but is copying what they see others doing might be breathing as normal, have exhaled recently, and when they release the handles/ladder and enter the pool begin to sink. Not knowing how to swim and now head-under-water they are unable to get air into their lungs to have any amount of buoyancy.

Some of us don't float. We sink. Despite whatever the lifeguard training told you. Plunk, drop straight to the bottom.

> In my experience you bob to the top because of the buoyancy of air in your lungs

Depends on a number of factors -- body composition (fat is less dense), how much air you have in your lungs (did you inhale or exhale before entering the water), etc.

Muscle is much denser than fat, so if you are thin (or have a large amount of muscle mass) then you may not be floating.

Yes, I could see someone trying to hold their breath and becoming unconscious before they are able to surface, however the urge to breath usually becomes overbearing for me long before I would become unconscious.

It's just an interesting situation to think about, because how would you know? And, why wouldn't someone come up? Obviously he became unconscious at some point, but was it due to not being able to breathe? Or did something else happen to him as he was entering the water (eg. aneuyrsm, heart failure, etc). It's hard to believe it could have been an intentional act of the kid (suicide at 6? probably not very common) or that he would go into that part of the pool in the way you described without knowing how to swim.

Some languages (particularly German) use the neutral gender when referring to children. It's actually quite jarring for me as a German to have a child (especially a generic child) referred to as "he" or "she" in English.

You're right, of course, but this sounds pretty rude in English. It would be nice if there was some way to privately suggest a correction without making a big deal out of things.

As someone who speaks other languages, I know there's a point where it's hard to make progress because you are fluent enough to be understood easily and yet you make significant mistakes that nobody will bother to correct unless you ask.

"It" is typically reserved for inanimate, non-sentient objects in English.

Besides, the story wasn't about a generic child, but a "small boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old" and was referred to with "his", "he", etc. multiple times.

I don't actually understand the downvotes you are getting, unless people think that this just isn't adding to the conversation, but in the interests of making lemonaide:

We often use neuter (gender-neutral) pronouns in English, just not this one. I've heard native English speakers say things like "If a mother wants to use the nursing room, they can just key in the code in their pamphlet". There are definitely restrictions on using 'gender-neutral they' but this kind of usage is totally normal.

Which is a great sentence, because semantically the pronoun referent is obligatorily female and singular. And yet, we use 'they' in this context. Which shows (among other things) that syntactic requirements can be relatively divorced from semantics. C'mon, that's pretty cool, right?

A language is defined in terms of how it is used, but a language is not supposed to be used in the way it was defined, if so, we'd still be speaking proto-indo-european, or maybe we'd never be able to speak, as there wouldn't exist any grammar before a language existed. So, being a grammar nazi is plain stupid.

Be charitable. If you haven't been exposed to actual linguistics (and know about things like PIE), you have the current, normal, common-sense view on language, which is that what you speak is normal, and what speakers of any other dialect or language do it wrong. I've heard intelligent, university educated people say things like "I don't want to learn $Language with an accent". The fact that no such 'accent-less' language exists is simply not a fact that they know. Such misconceptions about, and people who suffer under them are misguided, not stupid.

My two cents.

Misconceptions do not matter here. One may have misconceptions, but this does not justify correcting people for their grammatical errors on a thread that has nothing to do with grammar or whatsoever and thus hijacking it. It should be obvious that a serious lot of people here are not native-speakers.

What about dogs? It always seems to me too "cutesy" to refer to my dog as "she", but too cold and impersonal to say "it".

> it?

Some people speak more than one language.

Watching "it" happen. the drowning

That wasn't an error, but the author made a few small errors (really, just unidiomatic phrases), which suggests he or she is not a native speaker of English:

> it was such a pure horror

> a happy end

> it did not wave the arms

> made no swimming movements with the legs

> a dozen of pools and slides

> 7 boys in that age

> not loose them

None of these are a big deal, though, and the writing was perfectly understandable.

Sorry, I am not a native speaker. German. Will fix the comment, so everyone can ease off again...

You're doing well, it was just someone being a grammar stickler for no good reason.

Or someone correcting him so he can learn better.

Sorry, I didn't mean to start a grammar war. It was just something that stood out as a bit strange, the meaning was understood fine though.

> it did not wave the arms

> it did not wave the arms

The drowning did not wave the arms?

Clearly not a native English speaker. They exist.

Lifeguards and programmers have something in common – though it looks like both spend their day sitting and staring at a rectangle, there's a lot going on mentally, and the risk of cognitive and visual fatigue is high.

I was a lifeguard for five summers, Water Safety Instructor, and American Red Cross lifeguard instructor for several years. The training to be a lifeguard is surprisingly intensive -- it includes sections on attentiveness and observation strategy in addition to the actual rescue stuff.

Many pools have their guards rotate positions on a regular basis to combat fatigue and zoning out. At the pool where I worked, we'd have numerous lifeguards on duty at a time, rotating between the lifeguard chairs at fifteen-minute intervals. After a full rotation (usually about 45 minutes or a hour, depending on how crowded the pool was) we'd have some significant downtime to recharge.

We didn't have this at my pool, but there are some computer-aided monitoring systems on the market: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pool_safety_camera

> rotating between the lifeguard chairs at fifteen-minute intervals

My local pool removed the high chairs because of injuries sustained when the guards were scrambling down to perform a rescue; a chair six feet above a wet deck is quite dangerous.

Now the lifeguards stand on poolside and can dive-in immediately.

I always assumed my friends who spent their summers lifeguarding had a simple carefree job. I never gave much thought to just how attentive you have to be as a lifeguard. Thanks for putting this into perspective (literally) for the rest of us.

I spent a few years of high school and college working at a summer camp, mostly as a counsellor. There were lots of great things about it, but being down by or in a lake with a group of 7-10 8-14 year olds was terrifying.

I'd spend every minute counting the kids, making sure none of them were missing. At the camp I worked on, you not only had to worry about actual drownings, but also administrators who would try and "steal" a kid about once a week from unobservant counsellors, then call a waterfront drill where all the lifeguards on staff had to search the entire waterfront for a "missing" camper. Until the drill was over, no-one involved (including the counsellor who had lost their kid, lifeguards wearing masks searching under the docks etc.) knew if it was real, or a drill.

In the 5-summers I worked there, I took it as a point of pride that none of my campers were ever stolen, and I never saw another counsellor have their kid successfully stolen more than once. The shame and terror of spending about 5-minutes thinking, "Oh shit, I might have just let a child die" was a pretty effective motivator.

The steal kids drill sounds quite stressful. Is the goal to train to be attentive always and spot the immediate stealing act or to keep you counting and have a proper reaction?

I'll bet it was both.

I was a lifeguard, so I can speak with some authority. Both skills are necessary. Not only do you have to count and track swimmers, but you have to keep mental notes about their abilities, be aware of what they're doing, and imagine possible outcomes so you can identify and react quickly to the actual outcomes. If your attention wanders for too long, especially at a busy place, you can easily lose track of someone. If you lose track of the wrong person, well, buckle up.

Fortunately, there are usually multiple lifeguards on duty with you, you're usually on a strict 10- or 15-minute rotation with them, and one of the stations is the break room. That helps a lot.

Lifeguarding at a camp is at least 5 times more difficult than at a pool, and I suspect that's why they ran drills to keep the lifeguards on their toes. Underwater visibility is usually next to nothing. The lake is usually full of teenage boys. Access to the water is effectively unlimited. There are often a lot of occluders, such as boats and bushy shores.

The goal of these specific drills was:

1) To keep counsellors attentive to the specific children under their care.

2) To give the lifeguard's the chance to practice their missing child search procedures.

It was stressful, and it was effective.

3) if the children are lined up on the shore safe and sound, they're not actually drowning or at risk of drowning.

Having had a similar experience (lifeguard/counselor), I never worried much about the kids at the lake. They had PFDs, they'll float. Swim tests were always my nightmare.

That said, my bosses weren't huge assholes and didn't disappear kids regularly like yours sound like they did. We had drills, but you could tell by the demeanor of the director that it wasn't real.

I thought it was a really good practice, and didn't feel it was assholeish at all. It's not like having your camper stolen was unavoidable. If there's a lapse in your attention long enough that allows someone to walk up to one of your campers, explain to them what's going on and walk away with them, there's a lapse in your attention long enough for your camper to drown. You're signing up for your job with the primary description of, "Keep these kids safe for a week."

Plus, it wasn't a secret. We all knew it was happening. If all the counsellors down by the waterfront were being attentive and they couldn't steal a camper, one of the admins would just come up to a counsellor and ask us to take one of our kids, and tell us to go report a missing camper to the lifeguard in about 5-minutes.

Now as a parent, I'd much rather send my kid to a camp where the counsellors are terrified of losing my kid, than one where they're not.

I think it's a terrible practice, wholly ineffective, and neighboring on pathological to instill terror into your staff at the prospect of losing a child.

There are many better, more effective ways to ensure you're not going to lose a kid. We did things like count children before/after each activity, run drills at regular (not weekly) intervals, etc.

We also had games where kids were left to run in the forest for multiple hours unaccompanied (variations on capture the flag). The kids loved it, your kid would love it, and the counselors in charge of your kid wouldn't be obsessively paranoid about the exact location of your child at every single moment because that level of attention just isn't necessary.

> I think it's a terrible practice, wholly ineffective, and neighboring on pathological to instill terror into your staff

The point of drills that simulate reality effectively is to get you comfortable enough with taking the necessary actions at the required times that you will not have terror instilled in you. This is why armies around the world all do 'live fire' exeercise and so on, and why companies run BAU or DR failover tests.

I know why a drill happens. I also know why they don't actually burn down buildings during fire drills.

I assume that's because you don't get the building back? I think they get the kid back in these particular drills.

If not, then yeah this is a terrible idea.

Ha! Yeah, we got the kid back. They'd spend the drill hidden in the admin office, eating ice cream.

Really the most worrying part of the whole thing was teaching the stolen kids that if an adult walks up to them and tells them to quietly sneak away, they get ice cream.

Yeah, also the trauma and panic it incites.

Fire departments actually do burn down buildings as drills.

Was a waterpark lifeguard during highschool. We went through training every Tuesday night and were all CPR certified. It's a far cry from the lifeguards you see sitting around at neighborhood pools. If I was at the wave pool, I could easily be responsible for watching hundreds of people at any given time both in the water and in my immediate vicinity of the deck (choking? heat stroke?)

The job was sometimes so intense I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because I thought I had forgotten my whistle or someone was having an emergency. Props to anyone who does it. When executed well and carefully, it's not exceptionally hard work but any lapse of judgement for even a moment can lead to disaster.

> The job was sometimes so intense I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because I thought I had forgotten my whistle or someone was having an emergency.

I had the same waking panics while being a camp counsellor. We'd have 7 day sessions with 3 day breaks in between and quite often those breaks were punctuated with waking up bolt upright to figure out where my kids were. Took a while for that to pass.

Also took a while to remember how to eat slowly (you eat quick, or you don't eat!)

This is great idea but confusing. I missed the drowning event and tried to replay, but the controls are hidden. Clicking on the logo I got to an identical looking, but different video in which a different incident takes place (there's lots of them [0]).

To be educational, this should have a 'watch again' feature, or show the video controls, so I can actually re-watch the scene and watch for the features of drowning.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnERyC7dwJwTvEyzYz6uxHw

If you wait, it replays it with the action zoomed in. If you click "play again," it makes you watch a different video, which I think is good, because you don't want to be too keyed in on a single instance.

You're right. I hadn't noticed that because the text popped up and I scrolled down to read it. That happens early in the video, and there's more video of people not drowning. So I scrolled up to try and replay the video, tried to seek back to the start, failed, then clicked on the YouTube logo.

I'm sure I could have noticed it, but somehow I didn't. Mostly, but perhaps not entirely, my fault.

I watched a few of the rescues, and they were all of kids falling out of their floaties and seemingly unable to swim at all. What does it look like when an able swimmer encounters trouble? Would it look the same as the drowning response kicks in?

Also, how do you differentiate the drowning response from someone that's just bad at treading water and floats low in the water? They might both be bobbing just in and out of the water, but one of them can just transition to floating on their back and the other is trying to not drown. (I haven't swam in forever and don't know if I can even swim anymore, but I was reminded of childhood swimming lesson tests.)

I spent three summers life guarding at a US state park and would like to give my personal experiences, even if it doesn't give a definitive answer to your question.

Always trust yourself. Any suspicion on your part is more than enough reason to go help. These guards have excellent reactions and don't try to make a judgement call between distress and drowning. While new to the job, I hesitated trying to verify patrons needed a rescue instead of going in immediately.

While this is anecdotal, I also found that poor treaders often made attempts to move to more secure depths. Struggling is no fun, and most people swim to have fun. The dangerous cases were people who did not know their swimming ability chasing family into the deep end.

Lastly we didn't allow floaties in the water, and I think everyone who sees this video should notice the trend and think twice about them.

> Also, how do you differentiate the drowning response from someone that's just bad at treading water and floats low in the water?

Watch the face, arms and legs, and water surface. A swimmer in distress has his mouth as high as possible, may be flailing a little with his arms, barely kicks (if at all), barely disturbs the surface of the water, and goes under repeatedly.

But as a lifeguard, I helped weak swimmers, and then requested very firmly that they stay in shallow water. I also took their names so I could get their attention quickly if they wandered too close to the deep end.

If you can find a video of this scenario on youtube please let me know. I found this series of wavepool videos on the HN thread posted a few days ago (thanks oska!)


The one I saw was a kid who had some swimming ability that fell out of a tube. He swam a poor crawl, without putting his head in the water for about 4-5s before going under.

I'm still curious about this: "What does it look like when an able swimmer encounters trouble?"

Do adults drown as often as children?

Facts: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/wa...

When an adult or adolescent drowns, it looks exactly the same, they're much more dangerous to would-be helpers, and half the time they're drunk and surrounded by drunk people.

You'd be surprised. This is in Canada, not sure about the US.

Deaths per 100,000 people (drowning), Canada, 2006-2010:

0-4: 1.1

5-12: 0.6

13-17: 0.9

18-24: 2.2

24-34: 1.6

34-49: 1.4

50-64: 1.7

65+: 1.6

I don't have the source handy, but I'll try to dig it up.

Edit: Source - http://www.lifesavingsociety.com/media/157475/2013-cdndrowni...

The gadget here puts the overall US rate at 1.07 in 2013


I did 18-24, it says 1.18.

24-34, 0.98.

5-12, 0.49.

I wonder what factors into the differences. I'm sure things like number of guarded facilities, number of swimmers and amount of swim classes are important, it's the specific differences that would be interesting.

If you go year by year it looks like the rate goes up from 17-20, then after 21 starts to decrease. Somewhere else on the CDC's website they say that "alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation", which seems pretty consistent with that.

Thanks for the replies. What about able swimmers?

I've played water polo for several years. When participating in an activity where it's mandatory to wear a life jacket, I do, but is there really a point?

Sorry, forgot about the able swimmers.

But first: another water poloist! Awesome! Water polo was pretty small in my area, so we didn't have a lot of talent in the pool. (Pun intended.) I swam distance on the swim team and was a decent sprinter, so my coach had me play both offensive and defensive hole. My best friend could keep his navel above the water for minutes, so he played keeper behind me. I still love to get my hands on a ball and demo the backwards corner shot. Fun times.

Conscious able swimmers have usually been taught how to lie still and float on their backs, or will figure it out quickly if in calm water. They can often call for help, and will do so, interspersed with periods of rest. (Shouting takes a lot of energy.) If the water is warm, they might have hours to get rescued. If the water is cold or even just lukewarm, how long they have depends on a lot of factors, especially the temperature and whether hypothermia is setting in - but in any case they have a lot less time.

Able swimmers, especially those who are good enough to swim a mile, often underestimate the effects of cold water on the body.

They also tend to underestimate the tremendous strength of moving water. Anybody in moving water who is in distress should be helped ASAP, no matter how good they are at swimming. Moving water is a destroyer and an equalizer.

That leaves us with unconscious swimmers. Nobody swims well while unconscious. :) If there's a chance something could knock you out, whether a boat, an overhanging branch, exposure to cold water, or (for those of extended age) a heart attack, put on a well-fitting life jacket.

Hey, fellow hole :)

In my team the hole would go defend number 3 usually. Defending the other hole is intense.

I see, moving water, cold water and being knocked out. Thanks for the explanation!

When I've been required to wear a life jacket in the past (as an adult) it's typically been in a situation where there was a chance of some other sort of injury occurring that would render you unconscious or unable to swim normally.

Depends on the distance. As soon as you are out in a small boat there may be too far to the shore, especially if the water is really cold.

But at least keep the life jacket near you (ie on the boat), that way you can put it on if necessary - and never ever go out unless there is a suitable life jacket for every person on the boat.

Also never wear an inflated life jacket inside a ship (if it sinks and you become trapped you can't escape).

Never inflate it inside an airplane either!

>Many passengers died because they inflated their life jackets in the cabin, causing them to be trapped inside by the rising water. This led to future notices about not inflating the vests before exiting the plane.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Airlines_Flight_961

I was most impressed by the attentiveness of the life guards. While we know someone is going to start struggling in the next 20-30 seconds they've likely been staring at the pool for several hours. They were still able to spot the victims in a huge pool almost instantly.

I was a lifeguard at a beach. I didn't have any dramatic rescues like the video, but you soon get a feeling of which kids are a little too adventurous and need keeping an eye on.

Your brain soon kicks into holding your breath while watching kids swim, if one is splashing around while you start to feel uncomfortable it's time to wade in and drag them to the surface.

Often for us it was the uneven sea bottom, someone takes a step forward and plunges out of their depth. Run over and hoik them out.

To this day, when the surf is up and I see toddlers paddling I get chills and can't stop watching them. Doesn't take more than an inch of water for them to fall and start rolling out with the backwash.


I learned a new word today.

>2. To lift something up wildly.

Hah! Thanks for pointing it out. I thought it was made up.

That's a it it. Hoist, buy yank quickly. It also has a different meaning that came back to me,


To hoik a golly. I last heard that in the 70s. Not so charming...

It appears to me like a portmanteau of hoist and yank.

I've never written that word down, had to just go phonetically

> Doesn't take more than an inch of water for them to fall and start rolling out with the backwash.


1. They should be rotating their position every 15 minutes, and taking hourly breaks.

2. They are are at the pool, not watching a grainy video via YouTube

Friendly reminder: rescuing a drowning person (even a child) is incredibly dangerous if you have not been trained in how to do it. They will try to climb on top of you if they get a hold of you and unless you are an exceptionally strong swimmer they will then proceed to drown you. The drowning reflex overrides most people's abilities to process other thoughts, with the result that a loved one is just as likely to drown you as a stranger.

Many people are embarrassed by their inability to swim and so won't mention it in circumstances that you would expect them to -- visits to water parks, beaches, lakes, or even acting jobs that involve being pushed off a dock into a lake (oy). Don't assume that a person can swim, even if they tell you otherwise.

...rescuing a drowning person (even a child) is incredibly dangerous...

If you're swimming in crowded conditions, this can happen when you least expect it. I don't actually remember learning to swim, so it wasn't remarkable that I was hanging out, treading water, in the deep end at a resort at the age of six or seven. What was remarkable was suddenly finding myself at the bottom, thrust down by strong adult hands. Apparently my instincts were good, so before surfacing I swam away from the non-swimming adult who had just descended a ladder and grabbed the first thing that came to hand. Apparently the buoyancy she got from me was enough to get her back to the ladder. Several minutes later I was telling my mother that I thought someone had dunked me, when the non-swimming woman came up and tearfully apologized.

Teach your kids to swim, while they're very young!

Totally depends on the situation. Grabbing a small kid in two-foot-deep water isn't dangerous. They latch on and you walk away with them. Grabbing a 200lb man thrashing after falling off a boat ... get some equipment.

Fyi, the same rules apply when rescuing people from cliffs or other high places. Don't ever "throw them a rope". Don't approach until ready. They will latch onto anything nearby even if that means them falling because they cannot hold (human hands cannot properly hold bodyweight on modern nylon ropes).

If said man has a life jacket on, grab the shoulders, push him under as far as you can go, then pull up. The buoyancy of the life jacket will provide additional momentum for pulling into the boat (assuming low sides)

The Boy Scout lifesaving training says, when that happens (the victim climbs on top of you) then simply dive. They will let go. Then surface and try again. And always approach from behind them, get an 'arm bar' across their chest and tow them to safety with your other arm.

> Boy Scout lifesaving training > simply

To be clear, that's what Boy Scout lifesaving training taught you, not what HN taught me.

It's dangerous to attempt a rescue technique based on a vague memory of a forum comment.

Get trained, like Joe did.

Right. Going in is actually the last resort, for trained youth anyway. We were taught "Reach, throw, row, go" in order of preference. First, lay flat on the dock and stick out an arm or leg (reach). If its too far, then throw a line with a floatation device (throw past the victim, not at them, and reel the line in until they grab it). Third, take a boat out if available. Lastly, go out yourself if absolutely necessary.

If you can rescue a cinder block from a 10 ft lake, you can rescue a child. :-)

You dip them and punch them if you have to. Incredibly dangerous when they grab on to you.

"Reach or throw, don't go" is a mnemonic for this--give the person in distress something other than you to grab.

this is pretty true, having nearly drowned once I freaked out and grabbed all over my savior. Thankfully he was at least 5-6 years older than me and had no problem containing me as he dragged me to the side of the pool.

There is a reason life guards grab from behind and disable the arms.

I was about 14 and one of my younger cousins asked if I could lift him up onto my shoulders the way his father did. I told him no. Despite the fact that he was younger than me, he was a big kid. He was nearly as big as I was.

When I was swimming across the deep end, he decided to jump onto my shoulders as I surfaced. As I said, he was nearly as big as I was and since I was in the deep end, I couldn't use my feet to gain the leverage I needed to throw him off. After about ten seconds of struggling to get him off of me, I felt that the only recourse I had was to bite him and send the message non-verbally. I grabbed his calf and ankle and pulled them toward my mouth. As soon as my teeth touched his skin, he got the message and got off of me. I ended up not having to bite him but at that point I really wanted to.

All of this transpired in about 15 seconds and the lifeguard never noticed (To be honest, this was a long time ago and I don't even remember if there was a lifeguard on duty at the time) but I never took my safety for granted ever again. Just because I can swim well enough to get myself out of trouble doesn't mean that someone else acting like an idiot can't endanger me.

Three months ago I was at the beach with some friends. They were lounging at a beachside restaurant (the plastic chair type, if you've ever been here in Mexico you know the type) and I went for a swim.

Having been a competitive swimmer in my younger days I have generally been confident in my swimming abilities. This time however, I suddenly found myself in a current pulling me outwards.

I didnt realize what was happening before I was really tired and noticed that the shore was not getting closer no matter how hard I swam. I was literally 15 feet from the shoreline, and I was about to drown. I was too tired to do anything but focus on keeping myself afloat. I had eye contact with my friends 25 feet away. They smiled and waved. I was panicing and was just about to give up when reruns of Bondi Rescue popped up in my head and reminded me to swim sideways instead of forward. 5 seconds later I have sand under my feet. I crawled on to the shore and laid there panting for a few minutes.

I wobbled my way to my friends who greeted me with smiles and asked how I enjoyed my swim.

That's the story of how I nearly drowned in frobt of my friends, who would have been none the wiser until it was too late.

Be carefull around water, people!

Sounds like you got caught in a rip current, it's why you should always swim back to shore at a 45 degree angle, you'll eventually make enough horizontal progress to escape the current. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rip_current

Scary video, reminds me of camping as a child. My mom was a life guard growing up and she taught us all to swim and was pretty good at spotting other kids in the pool. Had a friend of mines little brother responding just like the kid in the video. His parents? Watching and laughing because they thought he was swimming funny. Thankfully my mom dove in and pulled him out of the lake, she knew exactly what was happening and made sure everyone knew what to look for after that.


Rules of the pool:

1) Don't run around a pool

2) NEVER push someone into a pool

3) Don't dive into a pool unless it's meant for diving (I recently dove into a pool and ate the plaster on the other side, if it hadn't been for her voice parroting in my head to stay calm I may have freaked out and drowned...in the shallow end, in front of my family

4) Absolutely no flotation devices in the pool that were big and round, especially innertubes (tell me how fun they are until you jump onto one and have it flip back and whack your head against the concrete side of the pool).

I found this a bit confusing. I thought it was one of those things where the drowning kid doesn't look like he was drowning. But instead, no one is generally drowning in the first 10-15 seconds. Then a kid flips over a floatie or such, and they are pretty clearly the one in trouble. Then the lifeguard jumps in.

So you really only have 2-3 seconds to spot the child.

There are 27 videos, try again.


How often does it happen that a lifeguard has to intervene in a swimming pool? I've been in pools a lot throughout my life and have never witnessed it.

Those kids also don't seem to be able to swim. In The Netherlands its obligatory for children to have their swim diploma before being allowed in the deep end. Also since swim school is part of primary education not many children exist above the age of thirteen that can't swim that I'm aware of. Is it different in the states?

No required training in the States that I'm aware of and there are a surprising number of people who can't swim.

Most people who can't are in landlocked states and whose family either does not go to public pools or none of the family has a private pool.

No pool, no beach, no "real reason" to learn to swim.

The biggest eye-opener to me was the "Instinctive Drowning Response" article shared a few days ago. So few people notice someone drowning, even when only feet away. I feel it's a bit more obvious when you're further away.

Is this in any way related or inspired by that post?

/Start edit

>Inspired by this hackernews thread: can you notice who's drowning in the pool before the lifeguard does?

Answered my own question by reading the About on the Github. :D

/End edit

This is a great thing to share on Facebook (for those who have it). It's one of the lessons that really sticks with someone, because of how terrifying the reality of drowning really is. So thank you for sharing/making it.

Also for the timer "score", might I suggest clarifying it a bit with "faster/slower than the lifeguard"? I was a bit confused if my time was +0.82s past the lifeguard noticing" or "0.82s faster". I had to 'play' a second time and purposefully click late to figure it out.

>Nicely done. +0.82s

I am quite annoyed that I didn't know the signs of drowning, having very young children and having watched water safety videos and taking my children swimming, but no advice on how to spot this. More preventative stuff.

I think it should be made a bigger deal of. Often holiday pools are not guarded and if everyone around knows the signs then someone can be saved.

Knowing is half the battle. The other half is fighting. Spreading awareness would be the fighting part. ;)

Things spread insanely fast on Facebook. If a few parents shared this website and their also-parent friends shared it with their friends it could easily get millions of views within several days. And parents would share this information.

If you think it should be made a bigger deal of - why not make it a bigger deal? Message your school district representatives about swimming education, especially identifying when someone is drowning. Start a funding for a public pool for your town/city, if one doesn't exist, and support the school organizing "field trips" to the public pool to provide such an education.

You'll likely get ignored. So start talking with other parents and make it a large enough issue that it can't be ignored. I don't think many parents would be against their child being taught how to swim, practice pool safety, and learn a life skill that could save someone's life. The main issue is getting them to think about it in the first place.

The hardest part about getting anything done is finding a leader with the drive and ability to get things done. Few people want to step up and even fewer of those that are willing are capable.

I once worked at a water park, for an entire month, as a teen. They would send weighted 'bodies' down the river to see if we rescued them. One time, they said they sent one and I missed it (and, boy, I must have really missed it cause I saw no such thing). At the time, I thought they were being a-holes testing me when there's no real danger. Looking back, I'm glad they tested us and I'm equally glad I stopped working there. You don't want that type of thing on your conscience.

We should do more of this kind of testing.

Good idea. Looking at it first though i was a little confused. The video plays immediately, so i didn't realize it was interactive because i had no time to read the text and no introductory explanation.

It would also help if the video automatically scaled to fill as much of the window as possible. On my screen it was a quarter of the entire screen and everything was really tiny.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm using a position: relative box as a part of the game mechanic for finding the drowner, so your browser's zoom functions should work fine.

I'll look into a good cross-browser auto zoom.

Thank you for this and I hate you. I actually teared up a couple of times as the life guards pulled the kids to safety.

I also had some trouble getting the hang of what I was supposed to do. I'd recommend an interstitial to get people going before the video starts. Maybe something like this?

You are about to watch a recorded video of typical activity at a pool. Help the life guard watch all the swimmers in your half of the pool.

If you see someone who needs help from the life guard, click on them in the video and check the results at the bottom of the video.

Since life guards can't do it (as much as they might wish they could!) don't rewind, pause or click the video while being tested unless you would be ready to blow the whistle, jump in, and swim to someone.

I agree. Clicking the video didn't seem to work for me the first time, so I just figured that wasn't how the site worked and wasn't entirely sure why this was a "Show HN" as I assumed it was probably interactive but seemed not. More helpful (and prominent) text than a single line in the bottom without an autoplay video would have helped, as the text there can be out of view/hard to notice.

Only a workaround, but i can confirm browser zoom does work fine. :)

Wow, I didn't even know you could click to spot the kid! I just watched the video, read the text, then watched more videos on youtube.

That is simply disturbing. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have seen that, but I honestly pray I never have to see that happen in front of me.

This is a great use of the web. Good job!

My wife and I have 4 children, she has insisted that they start lessons at a young age, and now my 9 and 7 year olds are excellent swimmers, with a 2 year old that can make it to the side if he falls in. It is absolutely terrifying to see these videos, but it helps knowing that we are doing everything we can to keep them safe.

This is the right thing to do.

My mom got me and my sister swimming at an extremely young age (I don't ever remember learning, as far back as my memory goes, I have always been able to swim). And then got us doing competitive swim team in the summers as early as possible (I think age 5).

I'm quite grateful for this, as not once in my life have I ever felt in danger in the water. Also, in a world of overconsumption (and abundant sugar), swimming is a great way to keep your kids in shape.

I'm a big fan of very early swim lessons.

For Silicon Valley based parents, recommend AVAC. http://www.avac.us/

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