SARASOTA, Fla., Oct. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- On Sunday, October 25, 2015, a whale-watching boat in Tofino, British Columbia "sank." Twenty-one people were rescued, one is missing, and five lost their lives.
When rescue boats arrived, the boat was floating vertically with a significant portion of the bow above the surface. This implies that the people who died were either pinned under water making the ability to swim a moot point; or, they died of hypothermia in cold water; or they drowned due to not knowing how to be safe in deep water.
Someone who knows how to swim would likely have made his way to the floating part of the boat to hold on and rest if he or she did not succumb to the cold or being pinned under water. Otherwise, passengers who didn't make it into the life raft that deployed could float or tread water to keep themselves safe.
To be as safe as one can be, every person needs to know how to take care of him/herself in deep water. This is the most important aspect of knowing how to swim. Knowing formal strokes like freestyle would not make a person safe in this situation, nor does it make one safe in most situations. Knowing how to float, to get air when needed, and how to prevent panic are necessary skills for each and every person.
The definition of "I can swim" (or the lack of one) is one of the primary causes of drowning worldwide, says adult swim school owner, M. Ellen Dash of Miracle Swimming for Adults, Inc., a non-profit school for adults in Sarasota, Florida. "It seems half the population thinks knowing how to swim means moving your arms and legs "like this" and the other half thinks it's being able to rely on oneself for one's safety in deep water," says Dash. "If you can do a few strokes to go from here to there but you can't stop and rest in the middle, you can't swim. If you can't take care of your safety in deep water, you can't swim. Everyone needs to know how to rest, get air, and prevent panic."
According to a 1998 Gallup Poll, 64% of American adults cannot swim (are not comfortable) in deep open water. Many have tried swimming lessons and failed. Lessons for adults must be different from lessons for children, says Dash. They must teach people how to overcome their fear of deep water. Overcoming fear is not related to learning strokes. "To minimize the risks of a tragedy like this, people should wear a life jacket and know how to prevent themselves from panicking," says Lynn Greer of Richmond, Virginia, owner of Ascension Swimming for Adults. "Though people may feel that wearing a life jacket is embarrassing, it is the best way to maximize one's chances of survival whether one can swim or not. One has to consider how valuable one's life is, given that anything could happen in the water."
Boating mishaps and pool and beach accidents in the news several times each year help people resolve to learn to swim. It's possible for every adult and every child with normal capacities (and many without normal capacities) to learn to swim.
SOURCE Miracle Swimming for Adults, Inc.