How to Help Someone Struggling in the Water

Published: May 27, 2022


Our tips this month have all focused on how you can help add layers of protection to help keep you and your family safe around water. One more layer is ensuring that you know what to do in a water emergency. No matter the situation, the Y wants you to remember four simple phrases:

  1. Call
  2. Reach
  3. Throw
  4. Don’t Go

Call—The first thing you need to do when you see someone struggling in the water is to call for help. If there is another adult, or an older child/teenager have them call 911 while you work to help the person in the water.

Reach—Lay on your stomach and attempt to reach the person in the water using something such as an oar, long branch, pool noodle or something similar. See if the person has the strength to grab on to the item and use it to help pull them to safety.

Throw—If the person cannot grab ahold of the item or if there is nothing long enough, attempt to throw them something that floats in the water. They can then use this to keep them afloat until further help arrives. Objects that float can be a, ball, ring buoy, an empty picnic cooler, or a closed, empty water jug.  

Don’t Go—In open water or a pool, it’s very important not to follow the person into the water as a struggling person may accidentally drag another person into the water or dangerous waters may make it unsafe for you to assist. Continue working to bring the person to safety from the shore or from the edge of a pool until professional help arrives.

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