What's Your H2O (Safety) IQ?: How well can you answer these 20 boating and water safety questions?

TASA ID: 1723

What's Your H2O (Safety) IQ?: How well can you answer these 20 boating and water safety questions?

TASA ID: 3296920

1. [a] How many drowning deaths occur in the U.S. annually?

In 2014, the total went down to about 4,000 per the National Safety Council. In 1980, there were 8,000 drownings nationally. 

Why: CPR, *PFDs - improved life jackets, EMS, **ETH-updated information about alcohol/aquatic dangers. But much more can be and needs to be done.*(Personal Flotation Devices-Life Jackets) ** (Ethanol-Grain alcohol, as in beverages)

[b] What is the comparison of men to women drowning victims?

4:1 or 5:1, males versus females.

[c] Why? 

1. Women have a greater layer of subcutaneous fat making them more buoyant than men.

2. Women do not have to demonstrate machismo. Actually, ladies when relaxed in the water, almost always float horizontally due to their distributed subcutaneous fat. Relaxed men float vertically. (Sexists might say it has to do with a concentration of fat in male skulls.)        


2. What three primary factors are shared by most drowning deaths?

Inability to swim, relatively or absolutely cold water, alcohol or drug impairment.


3. What percentage of drownings involve boats?

Historically, about one fifth of all water-related deaths are due to boating. Recently, this has apparently been reduced to one seventh. Remember [especially in July] this catchy saying, “Is killing a fifth on the third the best way to start the Fourth?”


4. Most boating related deaths are due to _______?



5. [a] How long does it take a child to drown? How long for an adult?

There is a 20-second average for a child and 60-second average for an adult.

[b] What percentage of drownings are children age four or less? 

Ten percent. The primary form of accidental death for children under one is drowning.


6. How far from safety are most drownings?

Ten feet or less.


7. How many drownings are:

[a] observed by relatively nearby witnesses? 

Estimated 60%

[b] initially reported to a lifeguard in a supervised setting (lifeguard does not initially detect)?

Estimated 70% (per previous American Red Cross surveys)


8. What are the four main types of drowning?

1. Primary - dying at the scene of submersion.

2. Secondary - dying within 72 hours of ingesting water and/or chemicals, pollutants, or biological matter into the lungs [there may be more of these than primary drownings -no one knows exactly].

3. Wet - displacing air with water in the lungs and sinking to the bottom. Wet drowning is death from asphyxiation.

4. Dry - suffering a non-released spasm of the larynx/epiglottis, not ingesting water into the lungs, remaining positively buoyant but unable to breathe (about 10-15% of all drownings). Dry drowning, which usually results in the victim being found face down floating on the surface, e.g. not submerging, is a form of suffocation.


9. [a] What are the four signs of drowning?

1. Victim is vertical in water with no supporting kick;

2. Victim has head back and mouth open to breathe in - They cannot and do not cry out (drowning is silent, as breathing has priority over vocalization.);

3. They have their arms extended out from their shoulders, pressing palms downward into water; and

4. They bob up and down.

[b] What is usually not a sign of drowning?

Crying out.

[c] What is the longest survival of submersion with total recovery in North America?

Summer of 1986, 66 minutes.


10. What happens to a person wearing heavy clothing, such as firefighter turn out gear, if they fall into the water?

Nothing, besides getting wet. If they know what to do and have practiced fully clothed; relaxed back floating. [Where is their PFD?] And - fire fighters' PFDs work best when worn under turn out coats. Also, duck hunter and fishermen wearing waders will also float if they know what to do and have practiced. Ditto regarding PFDs as firefighters.


11. [a] How fast does an immersed body lose heat to water?

Up to 25 times as fast as to air of the same temperature. If the person is not wearing a PFD upon unexpected immersion in cold water, putting one on is difficult.

[b] How fast does a submerged body lose heat?

The area above the collar bone loses about 40% of the body's heat. If the head is submerged, heat loss rates increase to at least 25 times that of similar air temperatures and higher.

[c] What is the difference in heat loss rate between still and moving water?

Ten times as fast in moving water.


12. What are your primary heat loss areas and how should you protect them?

Head and neck, armpits and sides, groin. Do H.E.L.P. if alone, Huddle if with others.  (H.E.L.P. means, Heat Escape Lessening Position-head out of water, knees drawn to chest, ankles crossed to insulate primary heat loss areas.)

[b] What temperature of water is cold?

Depending on a number of variables having to do with size, fitness, nutrition, clothing, sobriety, will to live, general health level, etc. - water less than body temperature may be lethal.


13. If an unconscious person wearing heavy clothing and a Type I or II PFD falls face forward into the water, will the PFD turn them to an upright, head out of the water position?

Probably not. Air trapped in multiple clothing layers and boots may counter PFD turning moment. Moral: Safely try your PFD in the water in types of situations/clothing where you would be likely to use it. On the job training while drowning is a very poor form of education!


14. What is torso reflex?

Torso reflex or inhalation response occurs when an unsuspecting, untrained person is suddenly plunged into [relatively] cold water. Immediate exposure to cold environments automatically results in lung inflation in order to increase metabolism. If a person's head/mouth is submerged when uncontrollably gasping they will drown. Basic protection: conditioning yourself and others to always breathe before water entry then covering your mouth on the way in. 


15. What operational characteristic of Personal Water Craft (PWC) frequently confuses inexperienced operators, thereby leading to potentially serious collision situations?

You must maintain throttle to turn the craft. Releasing the throttle and then turning causes a PWC to continue in its original direction.


16. [a] At higher levels of intoxication, approaching 0.2 Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) – at night, which two primary colors are difficult to discern?

Red and green.

[b] What color is the stop light in your car?

See one of the two colors in 16 [a] immediately above.

[c] What percent of fatal auto accident victims, and presumably boating victims too, have a BAL approaching 0.2?

Possibly as high as 25%.


17. What percent of serious boating accidents happen on sea coasts or the great lakes?

Ten percent. Most boating fatalities are on smaller inland lakes and ponds. Therefore, fishermen and hunters always need to tell a responsible person where they intend to fish/hunt and when they expect to return!


18. [a] What is the average size of boats involved in fatal accidents?

Under 16 feet.

[b] How fast is the average boating victim's craft moving at the time of the fatal accident?

It's sitting still or drifting. Remember: most boating deaths are due to drowning when a non PFD wearing, frequently alcohol affected, poor or non swimmer falls out of, capsizes or swamps a small craft into relatively cold water.

[c] What is the primary accidental cause of deaths to hunters?

Drowning (duck hunters) and/or immersion hypothermia.


19. What are the four behavioral effects of imbibing intoxicants ranked from those whose effects first appear at the lowest levels?

1. Balance is degraded at relatively low dosages, one or two beers per hour in an average adult male;

2. Vision

Sensory integration - going from simultaneous to sequential; and

4. Judgment.

For more details please request the article: “Alcohol and Water Don't Mix.” Also note, an intoxicated individual doubles their reaction time causing flat or spoon dives into shallow water to frequently become perpendicular to the water surface/bottom, resulting in compression fracture to the cervical spine.


20. The basic number of persons required for safe water skiing is two, an operator and a skier.

Wrong. For the best possible safety situation, three persons should be involved: driver, skier and a specifically designated observer. (The observer is not required in some states if the driver has a wide angle, rearview mirror.)


This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA.

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