Why the Back Float is Key to Water Safety and Survival
By Quinn Carr
I know from time to time you’ve heard our instructors tell your child to 1…2…3… Roll over onto the back. Other times you probably heard an instructor tell your child to be very still while they’re floating on their back. The reason we emphasize students floating on their back is that at its core floating on your back will ensure one’s survival in the water. One thing we know about water is its unpredictable and circumstances can arise without notice. As most people can attest to mother nature can be relentless and unforgiving at times be it a natural disaster or simple rainstorm. But often there is an untold enemy that is right under our noses, this enemy is silent and many times goes unnoticed, yes I’m talking about a backyard pool. Each year there are countless drownings in backyard pools all over the country. Many times small children find ways to unlock backdoors and wander onto the pool decks only to be captivated by a pool that often resembles a large bathtub. Within seconds a child can fall into a pool and drown. Here at the British Swim School, our emphasis is on water safety and survival. Our program starts with water acclamation by which children are taught to be comfortable in the water while practicing basic survival techniques like floating on their back. There are many reasons why we teach students to float on their backs, the most important being when one is floating in the water the head is facing outward allowing them to breathe. This is the core survival skill that all students must master before they can graduate from our program. Students who fail to master floating on their backs will not be moved to higher levels.
In my daily conversations with parents, and people, in general, we often discuss why we teach students to float. One of the things that I am mindful of when I talked to parents is I express that when anyone finds themselves in a situation where they are distressed in a body of water the first thing they must never do is panic. When a person panics they begin to frail around uncontrollably. This action causes the person to start to sink, but it also induces fatigue which increases the likelihood that the person will no longer possess the energy to swim to safety. One of the most important things that a person must learn in situations whether it’s deep or shallow water when the onset of fatigue overtakes someone they lose the ability to retreat to safety. Anytime you find yourself in a situation that is stressful the most important thing to do is to collect your thoughts and to remain calm. This may be even more important when you find yourself in a body of water. Remember it doesn’t take a lot of water for a person to drown. There are countless situations where people find themselves in stressful or perilous situations. A seasoned swimmer can find themselves in a common situation where they have swim several laps and now their body is fatigued. One of the most common results of fatigue muscles or leg cramps. When a person is swimming and experiences leg cramps the first thing they do is react to the pain. They may bend down and clutch their leg, or try to stretch their legs out, an action that results in them no longer having the ability to propel themselves through the water. In this circumstance, even the most seasoned swimmer can find themselves in a situation where drowning is a possibility.
We teach all students that the safest place in the pool is the wall because the wall never moves its constant and it’s always in the same place. If a person finds themselves in the middle of the pool they know that the wall is on all four sides and they can swim to safety. However, what happens in situations when a person can’t get to the wall? This is where the core survival skill comes into play. All students know that when they feel fatigue, or find themselves in a distressful situation to roll over on their backs. When the student finds themselves on their backs they can proceed to do three things, first, the student is able to breathe without any obstruction or difficulty. Second, by floating on their back the student is able to yell out for help if they are unable to reach the wall or swim to safety. And third, floating on their back in a still and static motion allows the student to regain their composure and rest so that they might regain the energy to then propel themselves to safety. To some floating on your back might seem simplistic, but as we know in life it’s often the simple things that have the greatest impact. So remember the next time you and your loved ones find yourselves at the pool, lake, or beach always keep in the back your mind that if the situation ever arises and you find yourself in a stressful circumstance where you can no longer swim to safety or find security on a fixed object like a pool wall or a lake embankment remember to stay calm and compose yourself, proceed to roll over on your back staying motionless while breathing deeply in two regain your breath, and if you cannot swim to safety yell for help. Hopefully, you will never find yourself in a stressful situation but keep in mind this simple survival technique could be the difference between life or death.