Reach, throw, row or don’t go: What should you do during a drowning?

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – This summer, four people died from drowning at different Utah lakes. Officials who often respond to these accidents want to remind Utahns what it means to be safe on the water and what to do during a drowning.

According to police, one of the drownings happened Sunday afternoon at Pineview Reservoir when a 37-year-old man swam out to save his child who was drifting off on a floatation device before he disappeared. A separate drowning earlier in the day happened under similar circumstances.

With the two drownings on Father’s Day being a result of someone trying to save a family member, Utah safety officials have a warning for the public.

“Remain safe because you can’t rescue someone if you have to be rescued yourself,” Public Affairs Officer for the Utah division of the United States Coast Gaurd John-Michael Zimmerle told ABC4 Monday afternoon.

Zimmerle further added if a person is out on the water with friends or family and someone begins to drown, the most important thing to do “is to contact 911 and get emergency services engaged and rolling before you take any action.”

The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation agrees that your first line of defense is to call for help. However, Boating Program Manager Ty Hunter told ABC4 that proper planning should prevent drowning from happening at all.

“To put it simply with this analogy,” he stated, “if you wore a seatbelt in your car to get to the lake, why are you not wearing your lifejacket?”

Hunter explained unlike a pool, open water has many factors that can cause even the best swimmer to drown. For that reason, everyone should have a lifejacket with them when out on the water.

He said if a person is out on the water and a friend or family member does need help, there are a few things that can be done.

After calling 911, he said a person can follow the reach, throw, row, or don’t go method.

Reach out to the person with something like a stick, a paddle, a shovel, anything that is available at the time.

Throw something like a tube or life jacket out to the person to float on.

Row means if the person is farther out and can’t be reached by throwing something to him or her, the rescuer may take something like a life jacket, tube, or floatation device of some kind out to the person. However, the rescuer should not make physical contact with the person who is drowning.

Lastly, don’t go. “If you don’t have the right equipment,” explained Hunter, “don’t multiply the number of victims that are there and that is a very hard decision.”

For more safety information from the United States Coast Guard, click here.

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