One of the most neglected areas of survival preparation is that of water safety training. According to the American Red Cross, only half of adults in the United States can perform the essential skills they would need to survive in the event of a water emergency. These critical skills could ultimately save lives.
Certain swimming abilities are necessary in order to live through water emergencies, like being stranded in open water. Situations that could leave you stranded in open water include being swept out to sea by strong currents, plane crashes and sinking boats. The swimming skills that could help you survive in these situations include:
- Treading Water – Treading water involves moving the hands and feet in particular ways to keep oneself on top of the water. Usually only the head is above the water to allow for breathing. Although there are many floating techniques, the most popular one is to move the hands and arms horizontally across the body while flutter kicking with the legs. Treading water allows a person to recover their breath if they’ve swallowed water and to stop and orient themselves in the middle of a swim.
- Survival Floating – In any water emergency, it is critical to stay afloat. This can be accomplished through many different kinds of personal flotation devices, some of which can be improvised. However, if you find yourself without a raft, lifeboat or other flotation device, you can use floating techniques to conserve energy. The most common way to float is on the back, but this should be done only in calm waters. In rough waters, lie facedown in the water, lifting your head to inhale and then exhale back into the water.
- Rising to the Surface – When immersed in deep water suddenly, it is important to be able to get to the surface quickly in order to breathe. It is helpful to activate one’s flotation device for the best results. However, you might find yourself without one. In those cases, orient yourself in the water by moving toward light. Flutter kick with your legs, and use your arms by pushing down against the water all the way to your hips.
- Front Crawl – The front crawl is the fastest, most efficient way to move in the water. The front crawl is performed by flutter kicking with the legs and using the arms to scull the water. The arms and hands enter the water thumbs first out past the head and then pull horizontally along the length of the body. The swimmer breathes by turning the head to one side and then exhaling into the water.
As always, it is a good idea to practice these techniques before a survival situation occurs. Check your local area for swimming lessons in order to learn these essential water safety skills.