Aquatic Situation Skills #
The Aquatic Situation Skills domain is one of the three domains in the Aquatic Safety Competencies taxonomy. It is the set of four competencies that define the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to understand and prepare for the challenging circumstances and adverse conditions found in a variety of aquatic environments and hazardous situations. The knowledge of how to use safety equipment, such as personal flotation devices (PFDs), provides protection during unexpected events. The ability to recognize and safely assist struggling individuals or drowning victims is vital for recovery from emergency situations. Learning about how different circumstances affect one’s ability to perform other learned skills can prepare individuals to cope with adverse conditions. These cognitive, physical, and affective abilities provide individuals with the skills they might need to recover from hazardous situations as well as to help others survive emergency situations.
Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Competency #
Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to understand the benefits and challenges associated with PFDs, and to select and use appropriate and properly fitting PFDs. Cognitive abilities associated with this competency include understanding the different types of PFDs, identifying their safety benefits and limitations, and evaluating the fit and sizing of PFDs on oneself and others. Physical abilities include fitting and securing different types of PFDs on oneself and others, and performing physical skills while wearing a PFD.
PFD Competency is primarily developed through practicing correct PFD use. Initially, this involves learning about the different types and styles of devices, how to put them on, and what proper fitting looks and feels like. It also involves learning to identify activities and situations where PFD use is needed or required by law. Further development includes practicing use in controlled and simulated situations, such as artificial waves in a pool or intentionally capsizing a raft. During this practice, both the buoyancy and body positional support benefits of wearing a PFD may be highlighted, as well as the way PFDs inhibit mobility and can make some movement more challenging. For example, exiting a pool by lifting oneself out onto the deck can be much more difficult with the extra padding and bulk associated with PFDs. Other movements, such as overhead arm strokes, may be impeded as well. Thus, the development of PFD Competency requires practicing common skills and movements to gain experience of how to effectively perform the skills while wearing PFDs. This includes learning how to modify existing skills to accommodate the PFD, if necessary.
The use of PFD is most important when individuals are participating in recreational activities on and around water, as with boating, rafting, paddling, or fishing. Campaigns and promotional efforts that encourage PFD use are often targeted toward weak swimmers or those who may not have developed other aquatic competencies. However, the safety effect of PFD use is similar to wearing seat belts for motor vehicle safety or helmets for bike safety; the protective benefits exist regardless of an individual's level of aquatic experience and competency.
By learning the different types of PFDs and the benefits and challenges associated with using them, individuals are able to select a PFD that fits properly and is appropriate for the current activity and conditions. The development of PFD Competency reduces an individual’s risk of drowning and other aquatic injuries because they are better prepared to correctly use and attain the maximum benefit from personal flotation devices. Beyond reducing their own risk, individuals who promote proper PFD use also reduce the risk of drowning for others.
Rescue Competency #
Rescue Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to recognize that someone is in danger, to identify how to safely assist them, and to physically assist them. Cognitive abilities associated with this competency include recognizing drowning victims and determining the safest and most effective way to assist them. Physical abilities include providing assistance and performing rescue techniques and methods. Affective abilities include valuing the life of others, interacting and cooperating with others, and remaining calm.
Initial development of Rescue Competency involves learning how to identify drowning victims or individuals who are in trouble, learning about the risks of entering potentially dangerous situations where another individual is already in trouble, and learning to determine ways to help that do not incur extra risk to oneself. Further development incorporates physical rescue strategies and techniques, as well as post-rescue skills, such as first aid and CPR. There are many different rescue techniques designed for various types of situations, circumstances, and locations. Some techniques, such as a “reach-and-assist” or “throw-and-assist”, can be adequately performed by most individuals with minimal practice. Other techniques, like those necessary to support the head and neck in cases of spinal cord injury, require specialized training. In addition to the practice of physical techniques, development of Rescue Competency involves practicing strategies to remain calm and think quickly in stressful situations, creating an awareness of aquatic hazards, and maintaining a consciousness of other individuals in the immediate surroundings.
Emergencies can occur in any type of aquatic environment, and the wide variety of environments that exist demands a similarly diverse set of rescue techniques and strategies. Individuals who have a well-developed Rescue Competency are prepared with a diverse set of methods and best practices to assist those in need. Such individuals are also able to adapt those methods and practices to meet the needs of any circumstance they find themselves in. Although the risk encountered during emergency situations is often associated with the victim, there is great risk taken on by rescuers as well. Competent rescuers are not only able to perform a wide variety of rescue techniques, but are also adept at determining the best course of action to assist the victim while minimizing risk to rescue participants.
By learning to identify signs of distress, by understanding risk management, and by practicing physical rescue techniques, individuals are better prepared to assist those in need of rescue. The development of Rescue Competency also reduces an individual’s own risk of drowning as a rescuer because they become more adept at determining a strategy that minimizes exposure to danger before, during, and after a rescue attempt.
Open Water Competency #
Open Water Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to recognize and cope with the challenges presented in an open-water environment. Physical abilities associated with this competency include applying skills in an open-water environment without loss of proficiency when compared to applying those same skills in a closed-water environment. Cognitive abilities include adapting skills in a way that negates the detrimental effects of open-water conditions.
Open Water Competency is developed by practicing physical skills in challenging real-world or simulated environments, such as cold, rough, or moving water. Development also requires recognition of the risks present in local environments and the creation of plans to minimize and navigate these risks.
This competency demands an understanding of the differences between closed- and open- water environments, such as colder temperatures, turbulent water, fluctuating conditions, and underwater hazards. Additionally, it is necessary to have a grasp of the differences between distinct open-water environments, for example: tides, currents, and weather patterns. In cases of intentional and unintentional immersion alike, the open-water-competent individual can make decisions that promote their safety by selecting the best skills to navigate their environment, and adapting those skills to fit the needs of the current conditions and situation.
By learning how skills are affected by environmental factors, such as rough or turbulent conditions, individuals are able to practice and adapt skills to meet the needs of open-water situations. The development of Open Water Competency reduces an individual’s risk of drowning and other aquatic injuries because they become better prepared to cope with open-water conditions and apply skills without losing proficiency in the fluctuating conditions of an open-water environment.
Clothed Water Competency #
Clothed Water Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to understand the effects of clothing in aquatic environments, and to react and survive in the water while fully clothed. Physical abilities associated with this competency include performing skills while clothed and removing clothing while immersed. Cognitive abilities include understanding the effect of clothing on mobility, buoyancy, and insulation.
A common first exposure to Clothed Water Competency is wearing a shirt while swimming or floating. Further development involves entering the water while fully clothed (including shoes). This provides first hand experience with the restricted mobility and increased drag resistance that occurs while attempting to move in the water with clothing. Practice should incorporate a variety of skills, especially propulsion, floating, orientation, and exiting, and should be conducted in both calm and rough conditions. The removal of excess clothing should be practiced in the water, as should methods of utilizing clothing as a personal flotation device or to minimize heat loss. Discussion on the effects of clothing in aquatic environments can prepare individuals for, as well as reinforce, physical experiences in the water, and is crucial for the development of Clothed Water Competency. Such discussions should center on the negative effect clothing has on propulsion and mobility, and how to adapt and recover from situations where one is submerged while clothed. It should also include some mention of the effect wet clothing will have on heat loss once an individual exits the water, and recommend approaches to minimize this danger. Dialogue should also cover the possible benefits of clothed submersion, including increased buoyancy, and insulation.
The majority of situations in which an individual enters the water while fully clothed are accidental and unexpected. Thus, developing Clothed Water Competency is most pertinent for individuals who engage in activities around aquatic environments where there is no intention of entering the water. Examples of these activities may be shoreline fishing, boating, and ice skating. Regardless of if entering while clothed was intentional or unintentional, the clothed-water-competent individual is able to effectively remove clothing while in an aquatic environment, apply skills in a way that mitigates the clothing’s negative effects, or use the clothing to their advantage. Bubbles trapped in clothing during entry may provide positive buoyancy, and it is a common practice to remove and inflate jeans for use as a makeshift personal flotation device. In cold water, or if help is not expected to arrive quickly, clothing can reduce the dissipation of body heat, and removing it may result in greater energy loss over time.
Reacting appropriately to a clothed immersion can help an individual gain control of their situation and prevent drowning. By understanding how clothing affects mobility in aquatic environments, practicing the removal clothing while in the water, and learning how to use clothing to aid flotation, individuals are able to minimize the negative impact of clothing while submerged. The development of Clothed Water Competency reduces an individual’s risk of drowning and other aquatic injuries because they become better prepared to cope with both expected and unexpected entries into aquatic environments while fully clothed.