Woman stands by the pool and table with flotation devices

Tampa Y Aquatics Executive Amanda Walker appears on Channel 10’s Great Day Tampa Bay from the New Tampa Family YMCA to discuss the silent signs of drowning and other water safety tips.

Drowning doesn’t look like what it does on TV or in the movies. 

“The reason why we call them silent drownings is how they look during the process,” explains Tampa YMCA Aquatics Executive Amanda Walker. “What you typically see in movies is the waving of the hands, the screaming and yelling for help but in reality, that’s not the picture at all. Drownings tend to be very, very quiet, especially when they involve young children. 

Amanda says to look for a panicked look on a swimmer’s face, often referred to as glassy or wide eyes, typically when they’re at the water’s surface or just below. “It’s often how parents or adults miss the situation occurring because there is no waving of the hands, there is no yelling and screaming. (The child) takes a breath and they silently go under the water’s surface,” Amanda describes. “So, when you’re out at a backyard pool or a public body of water such as a beach, lake or neighborhood pool there are a few tips to keep in mind.”

  • Formal Swim Lessons: Swim lessons, have been shown to reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent. “The great thing about formal swim lessons and living in beautiful Florida is that they go on all year long,” Amanda says.  
  • Designate a Water Watcher: An adult 18 years or older who has direct supervision of the children. “The water watcher should not be distracted from direct supervision,” Amanda says. “So, that’s a time we ask adults to put their cell phones away, have direct eye contact on the body of water looking for the key signs that a swimmer might be in trouble.” 
  • Door Alarms: To alert someone should a child exit the home.  
  • Pool Fence: Should be a minimum of 4 feet in height to prevent access to a body of water. 
  • Personal Floatation Device (U.S. Coast Guard approved): A life vest or puddle jumper, for non-swimmers or children not comfortable around the water. “When using a Personal Floatation Device, adult supervision is still key, preferably within arm’s distance of the swimmer at all times,” says Amanda.

At the Y, we teach individuals, ages 6 months to adult, to swim, so they can stay safe around water and learn the skills they need to make swimming a lifelong pursuit for staying healthy. Sign up for swim lessons today.

For beginners and non-swimmers, the Tampa YMCA is providing free Safety Around Water lessons August 3-6 thanks to a generous grant from the Florida Blue. It’s open to all beginners and non-swimmers, ages 3-12-year-old, in the Tampa Bay community. During the 4-day course, certified instructors teach kids a sequenced set of skills that will reduce the risk of drowning and give them confidence in and around water. Contact your local Y to pre-register.