Category Archives: Rescue

Swimmer Rescue

Navy Search and Rescue Training

Photo by TSgt Chris Hibben

Rescue Techniques Refresher

THIS video, produced by Lifeguards Without Borders is a good introduction to lifeguard rescue techniques.

As a disclaimer and caution, the video was produced for use by lifesaving professionals. Rescuing a drowning person in the ocean is extremely risky. In the event of a drowning emergency, summon a lifeguard, call 911, throw something that floats to the drowning victim, or attempt to reach them with a long pole or stick as a last resort, in that order. Never compromise your own safety to attempt to save someone else. Lifeguards receive extensive training and have specialized equipment to deal with drowning emergencies.


Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.

Drowning

Photo by PM3 John DeCoursey

10/04/14
To Do Today:


Drowning is suffocation by liquid. It can lead to death and ongoing health problems. A drowning victim inhales water into the lungs or the throat closes by reflex so that little or no water can enter the windpipe. In either case, a victim can no longer breathe.

Drowning itself is quick and silent, although it may be preceded by distress which is more visible. A person drowning is unable to shout or call for help, or seek attention, as they cannot obtain enough air. The “instinctive drowning response” is the final set of autonomic reactions in the 20 – 60 seconds before sinking underwater, and to the untrained eye can look similar to calm or safe behavior. Persons trained in rescue learn to recognize drowning people by watching for instinctive movements in two categories:

Distress: People in trouble, but who still have the ability to keep afloat, signal for help and take actions.

Drowning: People suffocating and in imminent danger of death within seconds. This includes:

    • Passive drowning: People who suddenly sink or have sunk due to a change in their circumstances. Examples include people who drown in an accident, or due to sudden loss of consciousness or sudden medical condition.
    • Active drowning: People such as non-swimmers and the exhausted or hypothermic at the surface, who are unable to hold their mouth above water and are suffocating due to lack of air. Instinctively, people in such cases perform well known behaviors in the last 20–60 seconds before being submerged, representing the body’s last efforts to obtain air. Notably such people are unable to call for help, talk, reach for rescue equipment, or alert swimmers even feet away, and they may drown quickly and silently close to other swimmers or safety.

Drowning begins at the point a person is unable to keep their mouth above water; inhalation of water takes place at a later stage. As mentioned, drowning can be quick and unspectacular and media depictions as a loud, violent struggle have much more in common with distressed non-swimmers who may well drown but have not yet begun. In particular, an asphyxiating person is seldom able to call for help. The Instinctive Drowning Response covers many signs or behaviors associated with drowning or near-drowning:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes open, with fear evident on the face
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back to float
  • Uncontrollable movement of arms and legs, rarely out of the water.

Other warning signs drowning is that the victim may call for help and has an expression of dread or panic. But typically a victim that is active and drowning may not call for help because he is trying to conserve his air and will not speak. Another symptom of drowning is when the victim thrashes at the water’s surface. If the victim stops or grows calmer, he has likely been overcome by fatigue, hypothermia, or a lack of air. At this stage, the victim usually has 20 to 60 seconds before going under the water’s surface.

Drowning can also happen in ways that are less well known:

  • Deep Water Blackout. Caused by latent hypoxia upon ascent from depth, where the partial pressure of oxygen in the lungs under pressure at the bottom of a deep free-dive is adequate to support consciousness but drops below the blackout threshold as the water pressure decreases on the ascent. It usually strikes upon arriving near the surface as the pressure approaches normal atmospheric pressure.
  • Shallow Water Blackout. Caused by hyperventilation prior to swimming or diving. The primary urge to breathe (more precisely: to exhale) is triggered by rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the bloodstream. The body detects CO2 levels very accurately and relies on this to control breathing. Hyperventilation artificially depletes this, but leaves the diver susceptible to sudden loss of consciousness without warning from hypoxia. There is no bodily sensation that warns a diver of an impending blackout, and victims (often capable swimmers swimming under the surface in shallow water) become unconscious and drown quietly without alerting anyone to the fact that there is a problem; they are typically found on the bottom.
  • Secondary drowning. Inhaled fluid can act as an irritant inside the lungs. Physiological responses to even small quantities include the extrusion of liquid into the lungs (pulmonary edema) over the following hours, but this reduces the ability to exchange air and can lead to a person “drowning in their own body fluid.” Certain poisonous vapors or gases (i.e., burning fuel, toxic materials, or chemical vapor on/near the water surface), or vomit can have a similar effect. The reaction can take place up to 72 hours after a near drowning incident, and may lead to a serious condition or death.

Treatment

If the victim is not breathing, begin rescue breathing. Place the victim on his back, tilt head back to open airway, pinch the nose, and give two full breaths. If the victim does not inhale during the first two breaths, reposition his head and attempt two more breaths. Check for a pulse. If a pulse is present, but the victim is still not breathing, continue rescue breathing. If a pulse is not present, begin CPR. WARNING: If the victim has no pulse and is not breathing, administer CPR immediately. If the victim does have a pulse but is not breathing, give rescue breathing only. If the victim has a pulse and is breathing, DO NOT give CPR—CPR could prove fatal. Continue first aid until medical help arrives. A victim who is not breathing and has no pulse may appear dead. DO NOT decide that death has occurred. Continue with the prescribed treatment.


 

Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.

Lifesaving

img_6433

Photo by Colin Diltz

10/03/14
To Do Today:

  • PT – 2 miles with pack (20-30lbs) at pace; Cardio/Weights – 2 sets to failure of: Close Grip Bench Press, Squats, Step-Ups, 400 yards jog, Military Press, Lunges, Push-Ups, 400 yards jog, Push Press, Burpees, 400 yards jog.
  • Practice the rescues and swimming methods described below in a pool or open water until mastered.

Deciding Approach

Properly approaching the victim is as important as any other aspect of a rescue. Knowing the appropriate and safest method needed to approach a victim is critical in ensuring your safety and the victim’s survival. Determining the victim’s physical state (distressed swimmer, victim that is active and drowning, or victim that is passive and drowning) is crucial and will determine which type of approach you will execute.

Front Surface Approach

Video Here.

The front surface approach is typically performed when the victim is passive. You must remember that approaching the victim from the front is dangerous because a distressed swimmer or victim that is active can lunge toward you.

Rear Approach

If the victim is active, you must remember that his response can change rapidly. Therefore, approaching him from the front could be extremely dangerous. The victim could easily grab you and take you under the water during a state of panic. Therefore, use a rear approach when possible. When approaching a victim from the rear, reassure the victim until you get to within 2 to 6 yards of the victim; at that point, stop talking to the victim in order to maintain an element of surprise.


Approach Strokes

Before approaching a victim, you must evaluate the victim:

  • Is the victim a distressed swimmer?
  • Is the victim active and drowning?
  • Is the victim passive and drowning?

Select your approach stroke based on your evaluation. Remember, the safety of the rescuer is paramount. Do not endanger yourself in an attempt to reach a drowning victim.

Crawl Stroke Approach

The crawl stroke (free style) is the fastest approach stroke. This stroke is used when the victim is passive and/or unconscious in the water. That is, the victim is face down, submerged or near the surface of the water, is not breathing, or is not moving. If any of these conditions exist, there is an obvious need to reach the victim as quickly as possible.

Execution of the crawl stroke approach stroke is the same as the crawl stroke, except that your head remains above the water’s surface to allow for free breathing and maintaining eye contact with the victim.

freestyleheadupMaintaining eye contact is critical. If the victim becomes submerged, you will have a better chance of locating him if you know his last location. Your distance from the victim will determine if your head remains out of the water the entire time you are executing the stroke. If you are 50 yards or less from the victim, you should maintain eye contact by keeping your head raised until you reach the victim. If you must swim more than 50 yards to reach the victim, make eye contact with the victim, place your face back in the water for four or five strokes, then raise your head again to regain eye contact with the victim (repeat these steps until you reach the victim).

  • Body position: The position of your body is horizontal to diagonal and influenced by the position of the head. This allows you to maintain eye contact with the victim.
  • Arm action: While one arm is forward of your head to catch the water for the propulsion phase, extend your other arm alongside your body in what is known as the recovery phase. The recovery phase ends when your arm is extended forward of your head to begin the propulsion phase. In the propulsion phase, your arms are approximately shoulder-width apart and the pulling action is slightly wider and deeper to compensate for your raised head.
  • Leg action: Kick one leg in a downward motion while your other leg is recovering to the surface to prepare for the next kick (this is known as a flutter kick). This kick is used for propulsion and maintaining the lower body as horizontal to the water’s surface as possible. When your head is raised, your knees are slightly bent in order to keep your feet near the surface.
  • Breathing: If your face is above the water, breathe as needed (free breathing). If traveling in excess of 54 yards to reach the victim, rotate your head to the right or left during the recovery phase and inhale when your face is out of the water or wait until your head is out of the water and facing forward while regaining sight of the victim.
  • Coordination: This stroke uses constant arm and leg action.

Breast Stroke Approach

The breast stroke approach stroke is used when a swimmer is distressed or a victim is active and drowning. This stroke is also used when the victim has a suspected spinal injury because it minimizes the wake created around the victim, minimizes the movement of the victim’s head and neck, and helps prevent further injury.

breaststrokesaveIf a victim is at a distance greater than 50 yards and if the swimmer is in distress or the victim is active and drowning in open water (ocean, lake), you should use the crawl stroke approach stroke to rapidly approach the victim, stopping approximately 10 yards from the victim in order to assess the situation. Execution of the breast stroke approach stroke is the same as the breast stroke with a few minor deviations.

  • Body position: The position of your body is horizontal to diagonal and influenced by the position of the head. This allows you to maintain eye contact with the victim. It also allows you to communicate with the victim in order reassure him as you approach.
  • Arm action: Execute the arm action for the breast stroke, except that your arm pull is wider and deeper, which allows your head to remain above the water’s surface.
  • Leg action: Execute the leg action for the breast stroke, except that your legs open wider during the propulsion phase of the stroke.
  • Breathing: Keep your face above the water and breathe as needed (free breathing).
  • Coordination: Coordination is the same as the breast stroke, except that there is no glide period. You constantly stroke until you reach the victim.

Level Offs

A properly performed level off positions the victim’s face up and horizontal to the water’s surface. There are three types of level offs: front surface approach, single armpit level off, and the double armpit level off. The single armpit level off and the double armpit level off are done by performing a rear approach, which is the preferred approach when a victim is active.

Front Surface Level Off

The front surface approach is performed when the victim is passive. Approaching a victim from the front may place you in danger because a distressed swimmer or a victim who is active may lunge toward you. To execute a front surface approach:

  • Stop 2 to 4 yards from the victim to reassess the situation and reassure the victim.
  • Determine which arm to use in order to rotate the victim into a face-up position (your right hand on the victim’s right wrist or your left hand on the victim’s left wrist).
  • Move into position and prepare to grasp the victim.
  • Turn sideways and move toward the front of victim.
  • Once in position, reach forward and grab the victim’s wrist.
  • Your thumb is on the inside of the victim’s wrist, as if you were checking his pulse with your thumb. Your remaining fingers wrap around the victim’s wrist.
  • Lean back immediately and execute a powerful scissor kick or inverted scissor kick and perform short, vigorous pulls with your free arm.
  • As the victim begins to move forward in the water, kick, pull, and twist outboard on the victim’s wrist. The momentum created from the kick and the pulling and twisting action of the victim’s wrist will rotate the victim into a face-up and horizontal position in the water.
  • Extend and lock out your towing arm down the length of your body and execute a wrist tow to move the victim to safety.

Single Armpit Level Off

Approach the victim. Stop 2 to 6 yards from the victim to reassess the situation, reassure the victim, and maintain your margin of safety.

leveloff1

  • Approach the victim slowly and grab his armpit with your hand (your right hand to victim’s right armpit or your left hand to victim’s left armpit).
  • Position yourself sideways to the victim and place your elbow in the center of his back.
  • Pull with your hand that is in the victim’s armpit while pushing with your elbow that is in the victim’s back to place the victim horizontal on the water’s surface (face up).

leveloff2

  • To assist in placing the victim horizontally, use your free arm to execute short, vigorous pulls and use your legs to execute a scissor kick or inverted scissor kick.
  • Once the victim is horizontal and on the water’s surface, begin forward momentum by extending your towing arm to a fully locked-out position and executing a single armpit tow.

leveloff3

Double Armpit Level Off

Approach the victim. Stop 2 to 6 yards from the victim to reassess the situation, reassure the victim, and maintain your margin of safety.

  • Approach the victim slowly and grab his armpits with both your hands.
  • Place your elbows on his back.
  • Pull with your hands that are in the victim’s armpits while pushing with your elbows that are in the victim’s back and use an inverted breast stroke kick to place the victim horizontal on the water’s surface (face up).
  • Once the victim is horizontal and on the water’s surface, begin rearward momentum by slowly extending your arms into a fully locked-out position and executing a double armpit tow and inverted breast stroke kick.

Rescue Techniques

Wrist Tow

Video Here.

Use the wrist tow method to rescue a victim who is floating face down. DO NOT use the wrist tow on a struggling victim. If time allows, remove your helmet and gear before attempting the rescue. Swim toward the victim using a modified breast stroke. Swim within 2 to 6 yards of the victim to maintain a margin of safety, this allows you to reassess the situation and reassure the victim. The following steps show proper front surface approach, wrist tow procedures:

  • Approach the victim from the front and grasp the underside of the victim’s left wrist with your left hand or the right wrist with your right hand. Ensure that your thumb is on the underside of victim’s wrist.
  • Lean back, pulling and kicking strongly to move the victim into a horizontal position.
  • Twist the victim’s wrist to rotate the victim into a face up position.

wrist tow

  • Swim toward safety using the lifesaving stroke. The lifesaving stroke is a modified side stroke wherein the top arm is used to tow or carry a victim to safety and use a scissor kick or an inverted scissor kick is used for propulsion.
  • Keep a firm grip on the victim’s wrist.
  • Keep your towing arm fully extended and along your side. This keeps the victim in the water column and prevents drag.
  • Ensure the victim’s head does not go under water during the recovery.

Single Armpit Tow

You perform the single armpit tow after a victim has been properly leveled off. The single armpit tow uses the lifesaving stroke. To execute the single armpit tow:

  • Place one hand (top arm) in the victim’s armpit. Your towing arm is straight and along your side.

armpit tow

  • Use your lead arm (bottom arm) to execute short, vigorous pulls.
  • Execute a scissor or inverted scissor kick in a continuous and vigorous manner.
  • Use either free breathing or explosive breathing during the tow.
  • During free breathing, keep your head above the water’s surface and continuously reassure the victim.
  • During explosive breathing, put your head under the water to plane off your body’s angle and reduce drag.
  • Execute approximately two strokes, then lift your head up to breath and reassure the victim.
  • Return your head back underwater for the next few strokes.

Double Armpit Tow

You perform the double armpit tow after a victim has been properly leveled off. To execute the double armpit tow:

  • Place both hands in the victim’s armpits.
  • Extend both arms fully along your body. You are on your back, and your face is clear of the water.

double armpit

  • Use free breathing.
  • Reassure the victim at all times.
  • Use the inverted breast stroke kick (it is the only kick that can be used due to your body position) to tow the victim to safety. (The inverted breast stroke kick is the same kick used in the elementary backstroke.)
  • Your kick must be continuous and vigorous in order to keep the victim’s face above the water.

Collar Tow

Video Here.

You perform the collar tow after a victim has been properly leveled off. To perform a collar tow using the victim’s blouse:

  • Maintain control of the victim by grasping his armpit with one hand and then with your free hand grasp either his combat gear or his blouse between his shoulder blades.
  • If grasping the blouse, grasp the material with your palm up, then turn your hand over to tighten the material.
  • Release the victim’s armpit once control is established and execute the lifesaving stroke to tow him to safety.

Cross-Chest Carry

Video Here.

Use the cross-chest carry to carry a victim to safety if the victim is struggling or when moving through heavy surf. Remove your helmet and gear before attempting a rescue. Talk constantly to calm the victim. Swim toward the victim using a breast stroke approach stroke. Swim within 2 to 6 yards of the victim to maintain a margin of safety, this allows you to reassess the situation and reassure the victim. The following steps illustrate proper cross-chest carry procedures (CAUTION: The cross-chest carry causes fatigue even if you are in excellent physical condition):

  • Use a level-off technique to place the victim in a horizontal, face-up position.
  • Retain a grip on the victim with one hand. Reach over the victim with your free hand to encircle the victim’s chest.
  • Place your free hand on the victim’s opposite rib cage, just below his armpit.
  • Release your grip once you have a secure hold on the victim’s chest.
  • Swim toward safety using the lifesaving stroke while keeping a firm grip on the victim’s chest and your hip on his back.

crosschestThis procedure brings the victim’s face and shoulders clear of the water, and typically the victim stops struggling. Sometimes, however, the victim will struggle during the swim to safety. If this happens, either tighten your grip on the victim or defend yourself with one of the techniques discussed below.

Tired Swimmer’s Assist

You must maintain a 2 to 6 yards margin of safety from the victim at all times while you are getting into position to perform the tired swimmer’s assist. Once behind the victim, you extend one arm, hand straight. Place your straight hand underneath the victim’s opposite armpit. Maintain a 45 degree angle away from the victim, your arm is locked out. Assist the victim in propulsion until both of you reach safety.

tiredswimmer


Defenses Against a Drowning Victim

DO NOT sacrifice your life in an attempt to save the victim. A struggling drowning victim poses great danger to anyone nearby. Driven by panic, the victim can grab you with great strength in an effort to climb out of the water. This can result in death for both you and the victim. The following techniques can be used to defend against a drowning victim, but the best defense against attack by the victim is to stay out of reach.

Lifeguard defense techniques video HERE.

Block

The block prevents the victim from grabbing you if you have approached from the front. If the victim lunges toward you, react as follows:

  • Place one or both open hands against the victim’s upper chest; being careful to avoid the victim’s face, neck, and abdomen.
  • Lean backwards and submerge rapidly. Keep your blocking arm(s) extended.

block

  • Swim underwater and away from the victim, and return quickly to the surface.
  • Stop 2 to 6 yards from the victim to reassess the situation.
  • Determine an appropriate course of action.

Wrist-Grip Escape/Wrist-Grip Escape Alternative

The wrist-grip escape is used when a victim grabs your arm or wrist. Submerge the victim quickly by reaching across with your free hand, pushing down on the victim’s shoulder to submerge him, and kicking to propel yourself upward. While keeping the victim submerged with your hand on his shoulder, give three hard jerking pulls with your trapped hand in an attempt to break free from his grasp. Once free, swim clear of the victim and reassess the victim’s condition.

block2If the wrist-grip escape is unsuccessful in freeing your hand, use the wrist-grip escape alternative: use your free hand to grab your trapped fist, rotate thumbs up, apply bone-on-bone contact with the victim’s arm, pry your hand out of his grasp, and quickly swim away from the victim.

Front Head-Hold Escape

The front head-hold escape allows you to escape when you are facing a victim who is gripping you around your head and neck. To execute the front-head hold escape:

  • Take a quick breath and tuck your chin into your shoulder to protect your throat.

front1

  • Clap your hands above your head (three times) to submerge instantly. This drags the victim below the water, lifts his arms from around your neck, and, typically, he releases his grasp in order to get back to the surface.

front2

  • If he doesn’t release his grasp, apply pressure to the victim’s brachial pressure points (which are located inside of the upper arm, above the elbow).
  • Thrust the victim’s arms up and away.
  • Keep your chin tucked to protect your throat, and swim underwater away from the victim and return quickly to the surface at the ready position.

rearhead4

  • Stop 2 to 6 yards from the victim to reassess the situation.
  • Determine an appropriate course of action.

Rear Head-Hold Escape

The rear head-hold escape allows you to escape when a victim is gripping your head and neck from the rear. To execute the rear head-hold escape:

  • Take a quick breath. and tuck your chin down, turn your head to either side, and raise your shoulders to protect your throat.

rearhead1

  • Take a strong stroke, clap your hands above your head (three times), and submerge instantly. This drags the victim below the water and, typically, he releases his grasp in order to get back to the surface.

rearhead2

  • If he doesn’t release his grasp, apply pressure to the victim’s brachial pressure points (which are located inside of the upper arm, above the elbow).
  • Thrust the victim’s arms up and away.

rearhead3

  • Twist your head and shoulders until free.
  • Swim underwater away from the victim and return quickly to the surface.

rearhead4

  • Stop 2 to 6 yards from the victim to assess the situation.
  • Determine an appropriate course of action.

Information contained on this website is for general information and educational purposes only. Please refer to our Disclaimer and Terms and Conditions before attempting any technique described herein.