DA leads water safety demonstration

Stoneham Dive Team performs rescue demonstration

Reading Advocate

Posted Aug. 5, 2015 at 10:41 AM
Updated Aug 5, 2015 at 10:42 AM
By Rich Tenorio  ¦  rtenorio@wickedlocal.com

STONEHAMThe bare-chested man in the waters of Spot Pond certainly looked like a drowning victim. He was waving his arms in 10-foot-deep water, 30 feet from shore. Luckily for him and the crowd on the beach on a sweltering morning last Thursday, he was actually part of a demonstration on rescuing drowning victims led by the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

As the simulated victim signaled his distress, two Stoneham Fire teams marched toward the water. One member of each team, clad in a yellow wet suit, got into the water, while their teammates, wearing orange life jackets, passed along a rope so the yellow-suited team members and the simulated victim could be pulled to shore. The “rescue” was overseen by a two-man crew aboard a Stoneham Fire Rescue boat.

Once the “victim” was on shore, he was placed onto a stretcher and buckled in by Action EMS personnel. The EMS personnel covered him with a sheet and wires, placed a mask over his face and pushed the stretcher up an embankment toward an ambulance, which was parked next to two Stoneham fire engines.

The entire “rescue” lasted about 10 to 15 minutes.

In pre-demonstration remarks, Ryan mentioned “how quickly a drowning can happen” and added, “It takes time to get someone out of the water.”

She also pointed out that drowning can happen in as little as two inches of water.

Each year, 5,000 children in the US are hospitalized due to unintentional drowning-related incidents.

“Tragically, 15 percent of those children die and 20 percent of those children are left with permanent brain damage,” Ryan said. “These incidents are preventable.”

Stoneham Fire Chief Joseph Rolli was also among those who spoke prior to the demonstration. He said that “most people think (drowning victims) wave their arms and scream.”

In actuality, Rolli said, “The first thing to remember is that the signs of someone drowning are quiet.

 “A drowning person cannot call for help. There isn’t time to exhale, inhale, and call out. Someone who is drowning cannot wave for help. Instinctively arms extend to the sides and the person presses down to lift her mouth out of the water.

 “A drowning person remains upright in the water, with no evidence of kicking. The struggle lasts for only 20 to 60 seconds before going under.

 “Sometimes the most important indicator is that the person doesn’t look like he’s drowning. If you encounter a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to him.”

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