AMR Ambulance Aims to Reduce Water Sport Tragedies

San Diego, CA - Paramedics with American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance service have seen too many boaters, swimmers and divers hurt or killed in recent years.  With warmer weather comes an increase in activity on and in area waters, so AMR is calling for heightened awareness of the dangers associated with water sports, and is offering tips to help reduce the risk of water related accidents.  


Each year, approximately 6,000 people drown in the US. The four leading causes of drowning are not wearing your life jacket, alcohol abuse, poor swimming skills and a condition called hypothermia.


Two-thirds of people who drown never intend to be in the water.  They fall in from the bank, off a pier, out of a boat or otherwise enter the water unintentionally.  Most people drown within 10 to 30 feet of safety.  With those facts in mind, it becomes obvious:  Everyone in your family should learn to swim. To reduce drowning risks further:

  • Never swim alone. 
  • Never rely on toys such as water wings, or even inner tubes, to stay afloat
  • Don’t take chances by over estimating your swimming skills.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.
  • Closely watch small children near water.  Children have a natural attraction to water. Each year about 200 children drown and several thousand others are treated in hospitals for submersion incidents.  Even if the child survives, he or she may suffer permanent brain damage and breathing problems.  A small child can wander away in mere seconds. 

Advise for boaters:

  • Know your boat and the “rules of the road.”  Take a boating safety course. 
  • Make sure your boat has all required safety equipment and it is in working order.
  • Consider the size of your boat, the number of passengers and the amount of extra equipment that will be on-board. DON’T OVERLOAD THE BOAT!
  • Never let children take the wheel and pilot the boat – not even personal water craft like “jet skis.” 
  • If you will be in a power boat, check your electrical system and fuel system for gas fumes.
  • Follow manufacturer’s suggested procedures BEFORE starting up the engine.
  • Wear your life jacket.  Don’t just carry it in the boat.
  • Leave alcohol behind.  Increase your safety, not your risks!
  • Check the weather forecast.

Unsafe diving is another worry. 

Never dive into lakes and rivers.  If the water is too shallow or you a hit a rock, a tragedy can result.  Every year, diving into shallow water causes more than 8,000 people lifelong paralysis from spinal cord injuries and kills another 5,000 before they reach the hospital.

Many suspected drowning victims actually die from cold exposure or hypothermia.

In hypothermia, the body loses heat faster than it can produce it.  The body loses heat 25 times faster in water than on dry land.  Violent shivering develops which may give way to confusion and a loss of body movement.  

Hypothermia while in the water can occur in any season. Many open waters are fed from hills and mountains, and water temperatures even in late summer can run low enough to cause hypothermia. Anyone who plans to visit area waters should follow this advice:

  • If the body of water you’re visiting is likely to be cold, wear wool clothing.  Keep some rain gear handy.
  • If you’re in cold water and can’t get out, pull your arms and legs in towards your torso.  Close your legs and keep your arms near your side, to reduce heat loss from groin and armpits.  Keep a hat on, if you can.  A lot of body heat is lost from the groin, armpits and head.  This posture is called the HELP position, for “Heat Escape Lessening Posture.”   
  • Wearing your lifejacket makes it easier to put yourself in the HELP position.   
  • For someone who has been in cold water and is now out:  Don’t take off the wet clothing. Clothing layers provide some warmth that may actually assist you in fighting hypothermia. This includes shoes and hats.

Other things to remember:

Alcohol and water do not mix!  More than half of all who drown had consumed alcohol.

You don’t have to be drunk to raise the risk of injury or death on or in the water. Just one beer will impair balance, vision, judgment and reaction time.

Four hours of boating, with its constant exposure to noise, vibration, sun, glare and wind, produces fatigue with effects similar to legal intoxication.  Combine alcohol with boating fatigue and your risk of a serious incident intensifies.


American Medical Response Inc. (www.amr.net), America’s leading provider of medical transportation, is locally operated in 40 states and the District of Columbia. AMR’s 18,500 paramedics, EMTs and other professionals transport more than four million patients nationwide each year in critical, emergency and non-emergency situations. Operating a fleet of approximately 4,500 vehicles, AMR, a subsidiary of Emergency Medical Services Corporation, is headquartered in Greenwood Village, CO.