Home / U.S. / The mother who investigates drownings publishes a viral request to parents about water safety. Here are your tips.

The mother who investigates drownings publishes a viral request to parents about water safety. Here are your tips.



A mother who investigates drownings is raising awareness with her viral advice on water safety.

Natalie Livingston, vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting (OoASC) in California, published her expert knowledge on Facebook, where she has shared 33,000 times.

People commented by thousands, thanking Livingston for his intelligent advice.

"I see moms and users with hunger for actionable information," Livingston told "Good Morning America." "If parents were educated and children were educated, we would have a safer environment everywhere."

Livingston spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as a general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in cases of drowning.

PHOTO: The children of Natalie Livingston, Sailor and Max, are seen in an undated photo during a family vacation.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
The children of Natalie Livingston, Sailor and Max, are seen in an undated photo during a family vacation.

Here is the full Livingston post, reprinted with your permission.

10 safety tips in the water: from a mother who investigates drowning

I investigate drowning. I understand the realities of what can happen, often quickly and silently.

I read a lot about water safety and advice for parents. [to pay] Attention to your children and not to be distracted, which is very important. We see many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but many of the tips are not practical and only highlight problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help. Here is a list of 10 random things I do to keep my own children safe in the water.

PHOTO: The drowning researcher, Natalie Livingston, inspects a California camp in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
The drowning researcher, Natalie Livingston, inspects a California camp in an undated photo.

1. Security briefings

This really started with a swimming lesson procedure to make sure they always ask permission before entering the water. I have extended it by having a small meeting about expectations. My children now know what to expect (sometimes impatiently continually asking me "Mom, what do we need to know … can we go now?!?!?") Until I give my report.

I describe where they can swim, jump, how they can jump and anything else related to safety. A good time to do this is when applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they do not follow the safety rules.

These meetings are a way to teach my children respect for water. Obviously they know it's dangerous, knowing what I do for work, but sometimes the aquatic centers, the water parks, the beaches and the pools look so funny and attractive that it's easy to forget.

I think that as parents we have to worry about safety as well as fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding rules, but I know that rules create limits, which gives freedom in security. I also love to include my children in safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do you see as dangerous? They also have some amazing ideas and, sometimes, they see things that I did not immediately think.

PHOTO: Natalie Livingston, a drowning researcher from Murrieta, California, is seen training a group of lifeguards.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
Natalie Livingston, a researcher who drowns in Murrieta, California, is seen training a group of lifeguards.

2. Water depths vs. height

My children know the depths of the water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means in relation to their height.

My 6-year-old son knows that 4 feet of water are on his head, and 3 1/2 feet of water are over his eyes, which are still on his airway. My 8 year old daughter knows that there are 4 feet of water in her eyes and that she will have to step on it and she can not have her airway at this depth. This knowledge helps them make good decisions and helps them understand how the depths of the water are different for each person. Your taller friend may not have problems in the 4-foot area, while they may need to step on or have trouble touching.

The awareness of depth in relation to your body is important. This keeps me away from "But mom, Jayden has to go there …". Yes, he does, he is also 6 "taller than you!

3. How to escape

I jumped out last weekend fully dressed with my phone in my hand at the swimming session of my 8-year-old daughter's softball hotel after a tournament. It was instinct, a 5 year old boy panicked and grabbed a 4 year old girl and both were fighting. He was holding her and trying to stay above the water.

I went in and took them both out. They both had natural fear, and a little water / air belching, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events, swimmers who are well on their own, have someone who grabs them because they are fighting and can not escape.

PHOTO: The children of Natalie Livingston, Sailor and Max, are seen in an undated photo during a family vacation.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
The children of Natalie Livingston, Sailor and Max, are seen in an undated photo during a family vacation.

I have taught, and I continue to teach my children to walk away if someone takes them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still do not think she can step on the water and keep her and another child above the waterline.

I have taught them to suck, bend over, bend down: vacuum in the air if you can (breathe), duck under water (the person who fights does not want to go there) and bend over (use your arms and legs to push them out) – and then shout to an adult immediately to help the other person.

I have also taught them to be very careful with people who touch or hold in a pool. Even adults may be weaker swimmers and may have difficulty maintaining them. The personal space is key.

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The personal space is key.

4. Distraction Reminders

I ask my children to hold me accountable. They know that I or my husband should be watching them all the time. We have told you that if we are not observing you, you need to get our attention and help us because, as human beings, we naturally become distracted.

I try to stay involved in their activity and I also tried to keep my phone away, but I was still distracted by other children, food, talking, whatever … life is full of distractions. I changed my tactic and downloaded a reminder app, and set up reminders for every minute.

I convert my phone to airplane mode and then use the application. Every minute I am alerted and I have a notification that says "Breathing Children", so I confirm that my children are OK and then I delete the notification.

Obviously, my goal is constant supervision, but sometimes my brain starts to wander towards something I'm thinking about and the notification re-registers me.

There are tons of campaigns on the designation of a "water observer" with a specific label that indicates that you have the responsibility to monitor the water. I think these are excellent tools, and we must also make sure that the water watcher does not get distracted.

Alerts can keep you focused as long as you stay away from your phone for any other purpose. I put my phone in airplane mode, but you can still have a tendency to look.

Be aware of your internal as well as external distractions. If the phone is a distraction altogether, the alerts may not be for you.

Find what works to keep you focused and stick to it during the entire swim time.

5. Designate breaks

We swim for a designated time, usually 30 minutes, but it varies depending on where we are and the activity that takes place. In any case, we always have breaks. I need these breaks more than my children. They would swim endlessly for hours if I left them, but they need to rest, and so do I.

As a lifesaver, we would rotate every 20-30 minutes with the premise of giving our minds a break and being able to stay fresh.

The same applies to parental supervision. I need to use the bathroom, I need to do other things, I also need a break! Then, we give time warnings and take breaks to swim.

Sometimes, breaks are also not scheduled, if I have to make an emergency visit to the bathroom or open the door, they all leave, every time!

PHOTO: Natalie Livingston, a drowning researcher in Murrieta, California, is seen in a photo with no date with her family.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
Natalie Livingston, a researcher who drowns in Murrieta, California, is seen in an undated photo with her family.

6. Limited confidence

This may sound harsh, but I do not trust other people to see my children in the pool. It's me or my husband, that's all.

If they swim in the grandmother's house, they should wear a life jacket. If they go to the water on the beach on a board with their cousin, they have to wear a life jacket.

I see many events where trust was deposited in another person, I take care of my children while doing XYZ, or the grandfather took them to the pool or a neighbor invited them. I may love these people and they may love my children, but I do not trust them, nor do I want them to assume that responsibility if something happens to one of my children in their care. It just is not worth it.

My children complain, yes? I care, no! They know that the other option is that they simply do not go. The same goes for parties at the school pool and camps with water activities, it just is not worth it for me.

The same goes for lifeguard swimming areas. I know that I am the primary source of supervision for my children and the lifeguard (s) are there for backups and emergencies. I do not trust them for basic supervision.

I only have two children and I can supervise them much more closely than a lifeguard that has divided the attention between 25 or more people.

PHOTO: The drowning researcher, Natalie Livingston, inspects a California camp in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
The drowning researcher, Natalie Livingston, inspects a California camp in an undated photo.

7. Life jackets are great

Culturally we seem to have a negative attitude towards life jackets. I do not think there's anything wrong with life jackets, in fact, there are so many games and activities you can do with them. We just have to cool them down again.

If there is a group of children that I am looking at, I would prefer everyone to be in a life jacket. It may be a cousin's party in the life jacket pool. Having everyone in one makes it much more "cool" and does not embarrass the smallest children or the weakest swimmers.

When I ran the camps, even the counselors would use them, they would be great like them! Having challenges with the rolling trunks in the life jackets, the water balloon launch competitions, relays to pass the toe rings … the games are endless and the security is greater with all those who wear a vest lifeguard Now there are times when my children will even say that they would prefer to just wear a life jacket. Amazing.

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Even in a lifejacket, you must supervise diligently and constantly, since children can be placed in positions that can still obstruct their airways.

** Only one additional note that referring to the "life jacket" I mean a life jacket approved by USCG (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, inflatables, baby circles, trunks, and all other items are not safety related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe.

We see innumerable videos of children turning in an inflatable ring and unable to straighten and are trapped under water, or are on arm floats and can not get their head out of the water because their arms are not strong enough. , or those who lose the purchase of a kickboard table that were waiting to float.

Even with a lifejacket, you must supervise diligently and consistently, since children can be placed in positions that can still clog their airways, especially if they are younger or weaker.

8. Educate

My children know how drowning can be. They know that water is dangerous. They know that good swimmers can drown. They know that medical events can occur without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly.

I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are.

They know they can not breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks to swim, they know why they enter the water legs first, they know why we do not play games or activities that hold our breath. It's not just because I said it, I try to give real reasons to my rules.

A healthy fear of water is a good thing.

9. Hey, look at this …

Phrases like "Hey, look at this …" are usually the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy to happen.

This is the way that children have to announce that they are pushing the limits or that they are going to show off, and I take these phrases as a moment to talk about danger and limits. Are you showing me something or are you about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions about water.

Phrases like "Hey, look at this …" are ways to indicate the behavior and intentions of other people. Now they alert me when others also use these types of phrases. I always say we can have fun without being stupid.

PHOTO: Natalie Livingston, a drowning researcher from Murrieta, California, is seen training a group of lifeguards.
Courtesy of Natalie Livingston
Natalie Livingston, a researcher who drowns in Murrieta, California, is seen training a group of lifeguards.

10. see something, say something

My children are part of my security team. They are observers of friends for each other and I ask them to take care of other children.

I often ask my son where his sister is or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are well, to know what they are doing.

The other day, my daughter said: "Mom, I almost called you … that guy was under the water and I counted 5 … 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, but it reappeared before it reached 2 "

I asked him, "What would you do if he was still under water when you came to one?" and she said: "I would say something to you or an adult until you answered". Perfect.

Children are an additional layer of protection and have good instincts.

My children know that they should not assume that someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting.

Very often, in drowning investigations we see children (and adults) swimming on or near someone who is underwater and doing nothing. They suppose that they are well, they suppose that they are playing, they suppose that they are doing it on purpose. Do not assume

Show them the 5 second rule (see Mel Robbins' book on the subject) and if they see anything. [teach them] say something.

Other water safety tips:

  • Swimming lessons save lives
  • Learn CPR: patients who choke need oxygen: air first!
  • Only life jackets approved by USCG, without arm or inflatable floats
  • Designate a water watchman / swim with a lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and protection layers.
  • Enter the feet of water first
  • Do not run
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous, even inches
  • Always swim with a friend
  • Lost / lost children – always check the water first

I hope this helps you and gives you some practical tips to improve safety during your water-related activities. Share this information to, hopefully, avoid further drownings.

Stay safe and vigilant!

Like the Livingston addresses in its publication, a water observer is a useful solution to keep children safe. An appropriate water observer, according to Water Safety USA, is at least 16 years old, but adults are preferred. That person must have the skills, knowledge and ability to save a person in danger, or can immediately alert someone who has those capabilities.

More tips for designating a water observer from Water Safety USA:

  • The water watcher should rotate every 15 minutes, with a new person taking the job to avoid losing focus.
  • Knows CPR or can immediately alert someone close with that skill
  • It has a working phone to dial 9-1-1.
  • Has a floating object and / or scope that can be used in a rescue
  • He is alert and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

For more safety tips, you can follow Livingston's Facebook page, Aquatic Safety Connection.


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