Dive into CPR: Certification Essentials for Water Emergencies

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more kids between the ages of 1-4 die from drowning than any other life-threatening situation.

Adults are no exception. The data shows over 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States annually. The rates, however, vary from state to state. Florida, including Tampa, has one of the highest rates nationwide, with 2.07 drowning deaths per 100,000 people.

Whether you are a swimming coach, lifeguard, supervisor, or just an ordinary person interested in water safety, we aim to shed light on the vital significance of CPR skills and certification essentials for water emergencies.

The Unique Challenges of Water Emergencies

Water emergencies, whether in a pool or a natural body of water, present particular challenges. Understanding them is the first step towards realizing the importance of water-based CPR certification:

Submersion vs. Drowning

Not every water emergency leads to drowning. Submersion, which means being underwater but not necessarily in distress, is different from drowning, which involves respiratory impairment from being submerged in water. Recognizing these distinctions is crucial for taking appropriate action.

Drowning is not always fatal either, hence the distinction between fatal drowning, which ends with death, and nonfatal drowning, previously known as ‘near drowning,’ which happens when a person survives the water accident. However, there are various outcomes with no injury at all or serious injuries as a consequence.

Individuals With a Higher Risk of Drowning

With an average of eleven people dying each day in the United States due to drowning, understanding the risks and the vulnerable demographics is significant for being prepared to assist in a water emergency:


Children aged 1-4 have the highest risk of drowning, particularly in swimming pools. Fatal drowning is the primary death cause for this age group. At the same time, it is the second leading cause of death with unintentional injuries for children aged 5-14.

Male Population

About 80% of the fatal drownings happen to males. There are several factors leading to these results, including more risky behaviors, water exposure, alcohol abuse, etc.

Specific Races And Ethnic Groups

White people have the lowest drowning rates compared to other races or groups, with fatal drownings being 2 times higher among American Indians and Alaska Natives and 1.5 higher in the Black population.

People With Certain Medical Conditions

Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, are frequently associated with a higher risk of drowning, with the bathtub being the most common site. People with conditions such as autism and some heart diseases have higher drowning rates as well.

Factors Associated With Higher Risk of Drowning

There are specific factors that bring a higher risk of drowning, such as:

    • Inability to swim

    • Inadequate pool fences

    • Lack of supervision

    • Alcohol consumption

    • Drug abuse

    • Lack of life jackets and other equipment.

Help in a Drowning Emergency

In aquatic emergencies, time is of the essence. While it’s crucial in all CPR situations, water emergencies demand even quicker responses due to the added complications of water and the risk of drowning.

Recognizing the signs of crisis and swift reaction can make a life-saving difference:

Signs of a Drowning Victim

The initial stages of drowning involve the victim being in a vertical position in the water with uncontrolled arm movements and no leg motion. The head would tilt backward, while the person is gasping for air. An expression of fear and panic is something to look out for.

Initial Steps for Help

Bystanders make a critical difference in the survival rates of drowning victims. As a bystander, the best thing you can do to help is assess the situation first by looking for warning signs.

If there are indications of a drowning emergency, call a lifeguard or another trained person for help and dial 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If you are not alone, delegate the tasks so the reaction is as quick as possible.

If there is no other option at the moment, try to get the drowning person out of the water while not risking your safety. Swimming out to the victim is not recommended, so reach out with a long or a floating object.

After the person is safely removed from the water, immediately check their responsiveness and vital signs. Tap their shoulder and ask if they are fine. If the person is unresponsive, check if they are breathing by tilting their head back. If they are breathing, a chest motion will be noticeable, and you may hear faint sounds. If breathing is identified, put them in a recovery position and wait for medical help while closely monitoring the situation.

In cases when the person is both unresponsive and not breathing, first, check their carotid pulse while counting 10 seconds. If there is no pulse by the end of the countdown, start CPR as soon as possible.

The Role of CPR in Water Emergencies

CPR can make a significant difference, especially when administered promptly. It helps maintain blood circulation and oxygen supply to the vital organs, buying valuable time until professional medical help arrives. Let’s dive into CPR and its role in water emergencies:

How to Perform CPR on Adult Victims

For adult victims, carefully place the person on their back and do 30 compressions by pushing 2 inches deep. Don’t lean on the chest so you ensure it can recoil fully, lifting your hands off after each compression. Count 100 to 120 beats per minute for every compression.

Accompany the compressions with 2 rescue breaths afterward, each one 1 second long. Check for breathing, and if the victim remains unresponsive, repeat the cycle as long as needed until you get signs of life.

CPR for Children

When it comes to drowning children, CPR starts with rescue breathing. Place them on their back and tilt their head so you can lift their chin easily. If it’s an older child in question, close their nose and put your mouth over theirs. Blow into the mouth for 1 second and wait for the chest to rise, then repeat the same action.

In the case of a child, push down at least ⅓ of the chest’s depth while doing the compressions.

CPR for Infants

If it’s a baby, don’t tilt the head back too far. You also need to remember to place your mouth over both the nose and the mouth. Begin with chest compressions afterward and perform the same steps as previously described.

The depth of compressions for a baby is the same as for a child (⅓ of the chest’s depth), except instead of two hands, only two fingers should be used for the compressions.

In all cases, remember to continue giving CPR until the EMS personnel or another trained First Aider takes over.

How Is CPR for Water Emergencies Different?

CPR in water emergencies is more focused on the airway and rescue breaths compared to other situations. Most victims don’t get a big amount of water in their lungs due to our body mechanisms, and aspirated water is quickly absorbed.

However, drowning victims may have less oxygen in their blood circulation than other emergency victims, so the rescue breaths are more important than usual.

People affected by water accidents might also have firmer chests; therefore, you may need to use more force during chest compressions.

Vomiting occurs more often as well. In such cases, place the victim on their side and clean the airway with your hands if needed.

CPR Certification Essentials for Water Emergencies

When looking for CPR certification opportunities in Tampa, especially if your focus is water safety, there are a few factors that you should consider to choose the most effective option for you:

Aspects That Should Be Covered With the Training

Make sure that your CPR training curriculum covers the safety basics for water emergencies, such as:

    • How to recognize dangerous settings

    • How to identify the signs of an emergency

    • How to get into the water and exit safely

    • How to perform CPR for drowning victims

    • How to use AED in aquatic environments.

Relevant Accreditation

To make sure your CPR certification covers the water emergency essentials, you should opt for providers with relevant AHA (American Heart Association) or ARC (American Red Cross) accreditation. This way, you’ll ensure that your training meets the CPR and ECC guidelines.

The AHA and the ARC offer certifications for multiple CPR programs through their trusted partners. The certificate confirms your skills and knowledge about the Chain of Survival, symptom recognition, chest compressions, guidelines, Good Samaritan laws, etc.

Certificate Expiration Date and Recertification

Unfortunately, CPR skills deteriorate over time if they are not practiced. With rapid changes in global circumstances and medical advancements, CPR recertification is crucial for staying up-to-date and providing adequate help in case of water emergencies.

CPR certifications are typically valid for two years. The expiration date should be visible on your certification card. To maintain your CPR card valid, you need to enroll in a CPR recertification class before the card expires.

The CPR renewal process usually takes less time than the initial CPR training and certification, extending the validity of your card for another two years.

Key Takeaways

With drowning as a leading cause of children’s death in the United States, knowing how to respond swiftly and effectively in water emergencies is crucial. Recognizing the signs of drowning and administering CPR correctly can save someone’s life.

When seeking CPR certification in Tampa, choose accredited programs and keep your skills up-to-date through recertification. By being prepared, you can play a vital role in preventing drownings and saving lives in aquatic environments.