Reach, Throw, Row, Go!

In my freshman year of college, I got a job at the Moline YMCA – as a lifeguard for the indoor pool. There was hardly ever anyone there – but they needed a lifeguard and so I took afternoon hours. After class. I was hired as a lifeguard because I had Lifesaving Merit Badge and I had also passed the American Red Cross Lifeguard certification. In these happy days of spring and advancing summer, it’s good to know a few things – about saving lives. . . . .

The one mantra that I learned early and often was “Reach, Throw, Row, Go!” Trying to save someone from drowning does not always require diving into the water. If the person is 3 feet away, reach for them – with your hand or a stick or rope. And pull them to safety. Or throw a ring buoy (throw it behind them so you can pull it forward – and snag the person). If the person is far from shore in a lake or river. Choppy water. And you have a rowboat, then hop in the boat – and get out there. Finally – if all other options are exhausted – GO! Jump in the water and swim out. So you don’t get pulled under by flailing arms, go under the water, turn the person around, bump them up to the surface with your hip – and toss an arm over their chest and start moving. Usually the flailing stops. If you Go, ya gotta be careful. A drowning person can grab on to you putting your life at risk. The Red Cross does not encourage the “Go” unless there is no other option.

People who are drowning will have their head down. Or mouth back. Body vertical. Legs not moving. Arms may be flailing but the head my be under water. Struggling to get back up. Watch their head.

Once on shore, if a person is unconscious, there is precious little time. Begin with some quick mouth to mouth resuscitation – to get air into lungs. This may prompt vomiting. If there is no pulse – or a weak one – begin CPR. To learn more – go to

In short – keep watch. And always be ready. . . . .

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