Simple Step by Step Guide on How to Save Someone Who is Drowning


Guest post by Miles Wiseman

Drowning can happen any time and surprisingly even in shallow water. Knowing what you are required to do to rescue a drowning person safely helps save lives. A simple process to carry out when rescuing a drowning person is, reach, throw, row and go, in that order. However, the first thing you should always do immediately you see someone drowning is call for help.

Image courtesy of David, CC BY 2.0

Image courtesy of David, CC BY 2.0

Dial 911

Call the rescue emergency number to report the incident as soon as possible. An adult can struggle in water for about three minutes but a child can only last less than thirty seconds. Therefore, action should be taken very fast to rescue a drowning person. You can also scream to attract the attraction of people who can join to assist in rescuing the victim.


This is quite risky and a lot of care should be taken. You should ensure that you are in a safe position and cannot be pulled in by the victim; lying flat on the floor and stretch your hand towards the victim.

If you cannot reach the victim, use a tree branch or a towel and taking care not to hit him or her, throw it towards him and after he grasps it, you can pool it to a safe position.

Another way to reach the victim is to get into the water and with one hand holding the edge of the pool or grass, stretch the other hand towards the victim and after he grasps you can slowly pull him towards safety.


Most of the swimming areas have safety rings that are attached to a long rope. They usually float and they can be used to save a drowning victim. Throw the ring towards the victim and ask him/her to grab it then pull it towards the shore.


This applies where the victim is too far and can neither use reach or throw methods. Take a boat and go close to the victim taking care not to hit him. You can throw a safety ring to the victim to help him stabilize before you get there. Ask the victim to hold on to the boat when you get there or you can apply reach to help him get to safety.


Swimming to rescue someone drowning should be the last resort, it require swimming skills and a lot of training before doing it. This is because a drowning person is violent and may pose danger to the rescuer. They may try to climb on the rescuer to be able to breathe, which may cause him to drown too. However, if you have to swim out to rescue a drowning person, carry a towel with you or any object that the victim can hold on to as you tow him to safety ensuring that you are at a safe distance from him.

After the rescue

Give first aid to the victim immediately after rescuing him or her. Feel for the pulse on the neck side or the wrist, if he is still breathing feel for the air coming through the nose and ensure it is open.

If the victim is not breathing, perform a CPR to increase his chances of surviving. A Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to deliver oxygen and artificial blood circulation to the victim. When you perform a CPR, blood is circulated to the body providing oxygen to the brain and other body parts. A CPR should be performed immediately to a person with breathing difficulty as starvation of oxygen in the brain may cause death.

About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)


  1. Thanks for posting this article (it’s a couple of years old I know, but only just seeing it now). It’s coming into summer where I live, so really good to get a re-fresher on this important topic – you never know when you might need to save someone from drowning!

  2. “To be able to breath.” I’m sorry, can you please change that? It’s breathe, not breath. You can breathe (verb), or you can take a breath (noun), but you can’t breath.

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