COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — First responders staged a dramatic mock drowning and rescue Tuesday at the Boys and Girls Club pool in East Naples. The event, held during Collier County Public Schools spring break, was geared toward teaching middle and high-school children the importance of water safety.
As dozens of children watched, a firefighter pretended to accidentally fall off a paddle board in the pool. An air tank underwater allowed him to breathe - unseen by the kids observing - while a woman acting as his mother screamed for help.
"That's the key, to bring it right to their face and show them," said Lt. Jarett Cotter of Greater Naples Fire-Rescue. "This is just short of the real thing happening, which we don't ever want anybody to witness."
The mock drowning scenario included a "rescue" by divers. The scenario ended with EMTs taking the "victim" away in an ambulance.
With all the pools, canals, and other bodies of water in Florida, the first responders want the kids to fully understand how to stay safe around the water, by learning to swim, wearing a life jacket, and calling 911 if they see someone drowning.
They also advise against going in after someone who is drowning if they can avoid, it preferring a method of throwing the victim a line or other object to grab onto.
"We teach them to throw and tow to the victim, and bring them in safely that way," Cotter said.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, about ten people drown every day in the United States.
Fifteen-year-old Isabella DiGrigoli, who took part in the mock drowning and rescue, said she almost became one of those sad statistics herself when she was three years old at a pool party.
"I was almost a drowning victim myself, so I know how scary the situation can be," she said. "A family friend actually caught me. If it weren't for him, I don't think I would be here today."
Students attending the water safety awareness event were also shown the basics of CPR.
The event was a collaboration between the NCH Safe and Healthy Children Coalition, Collier County EMS, the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, Collier County Parks and Recreation, Collier County Sheriff's Office, the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, and the Florida Department of Health in Collier County.