For many families, summer means picnics, fireworks, and time at the pool. These summer experiences can quickly turn into nightmares when a parent turns their back on a swimming child.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1-4. For every child who dies of drowning, another five go to the emergency room. Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Summer emergency preparedness demands a renewed commitment to preventing drowning accidents. EMS can play a major role in this endeavor with community education and involvement, but when the worst happens and a child has a drowning incident, the right supplies—including portable suction—can manage the airway, prevent brain damage, and save lives.
The Role of Community Outreach
Even the most responsive, sensitive, and skilled emergency management strategy cannot save all drowning victims. Stemming the tide of drowning accidents must begin with community outreach. Seminars on drowning prevention can save lives. Many parents do not realize that people who are drowning are silent, not fighting or screaming. Others may not know how quickly their children can drown—even if they’re good swimmers. Dispelling drowning myths and offering actionable tips for preventing tragedies saves lives. It also makes your organization a reliable and valued member of the community.
Community outreach works best when it’s accessible and easy for community members to participate. Try partnering with a local church or community service organization, or asking if a neighborhood pool will sponsor a brief talk. Don’t make people come to you, pay for the information, or juggle scheduling issues. The more talks you can give at more locations, the more likely you will be to reach people in need of the information.
Responding to Drowning Emergencies
Promptly responding to drowning emergencies can prevent a summer party or vacation from turning into a nightmare. When adults drown, alcohol, head trauma, and spinal cord injuries are often implicated, so it’s appropriate to manage these factors along with ensuring a patent airway.
The cornerstones of proper drowning management include:
- CPR on a patient in arrest
- Offering supplemental oxygen as quickly as possible
- Performing intubation
- Suctioning the airway if the patient cannot clear it on their own or if it is blocked by secretions
Because children are often involved in drowning accidents, having appropriately sized catheters available is key to the proper operation of your suction unit. Catheters that are too large can damage the delicate airways of young children, compounding the injury. It’s wise to maintain a separate kit for child drowning victims so that the right equipment is always readily available and easy to locate.
Drowning accidents always require medical transport. Occasionally, EMS responders encounter parents or other family members who think a drowning victim is fine if they are revived. Education about the need for medical evaluation is critical.
EMS workers face one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries. In the summer, when temperatures are hot, crowds are large, and people are prone to panic, the risk of injuries increases. Self-care is a vital ingredient in the recipe for on-the-job effectiveness. The most common sources of injuries include:
- Physical exertion
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Trips, slips, and falls
- Motor vehicle accidents
Large outdoor concerts, pool parties, and similar summer events increase the susceptibility to injury. Training can reduce the risk. However, many training programs fail to consider another source of emergency management injuries: psychological trauma and stress.
Especially when working with children who drown more than any other group and are especially susceptible to summertime injuries, first responders can suffer. Over time, trauma can decrease your effectiveness, erode relationships, and even become a cause of disability. First responders should treat psychological distress as a medical issue and a health threat. Counseling and support are not for the weak; they are a vital component of self-care for EMS workers who witness or experience trauma.
Other important self-care strategies include:
- Processing through traumatic events with your team.
- Talking to loved ones about traumatic experiences at work.
- Taking time away from work. A family vacation or mental health day is a powerful antidote to stress.
- Allowing yourself to stop thinking about work. Don’t ruminate on what you can’t change. Try spending time on a challenging and enjoyable hobby instead.
Preparedness Begins with the Right Equipment
No matter what population you serve, the right equipment can help you manage the critical challenges of summer emergencies. The right portable suction unit is a key component of your emergency preparedness kit. To learn more about your options, read The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.