Rescuing a Drowning Victim

Emergencies involving someone in trouble in the water are truly life and death situations, and they can happen in an instant. Even the best of swimmers may experience trouble and need help in the water.

The first thing you need to do when you see someone in trouble in the water is call for help. If there is a lifeguard on duty, notify the lifeguard immediately and do whatever you can to assist the lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard on duty, you need to call 9-1-1 or other emergency personnel, or get someone to go for help.

An important thing to remember if you are attempting to help someone who is fighting to stay above the water and appears to be drowning -- you need to keep yourself safe, or you will not be able to help anyone. A person who is struggling in the water can quickly grab onto you and pull you under with them. Instead of getting into the water with the victim, you may want to try and throw them something they can grab onto and keep themselves afloat until emergency help arrives or you can pull them to safety.

The American Red Cross recommends: Check-Call-Care  

  • Check the scene to ensure it’s safe       
  • Check the victim       
  • Call for emergency help       
  • Care for the person until help arrives.


If the person is no longer fighting the water:

  • Remove the person from the water       
  • Check for consciousness and breathing       
  • If not breathing, open the airway and attempt rescue breathing       
  • If air is blocked, give abdominal thrusts for children and adults to clear the airway       
  • Once airway is clear, provide rescue breathing or CPR as needed.


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