General Question

rowenaz's avatar

Would a whistle help someone who is drowning?

Asked by rowenaz (2421 points ) December 19th, 2010

I’ve been reading about dangers at the beach, including rip currents, and was wondering: if hikers use a storm whistle (three sharp blows calls for help) then why couldn’t swimmers have a whistle? Does getting it wet make it not work? Can you not get enough breath? I thought if you are swimming you wave or call for help, but couldn’t this be a possibility?

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16 Answers

klutzaroo's avatar

If you’re drowning, going under the water, and cannot breathe… how are you supposed to blow into a whistle? It requires breath to blow. It just doesn’t add up.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Water wings or a Mae West maybe?

JLeslie's avatar

Well, if you are drowning it would be tough. If you are caught in a current, and are struggling to get to shore, then alerting a life guard might help. But, I think whistles have a ball in them, don’t they? Maybe there are several different types of whistles? If it got water in it, I would think it would not work. But, being able to alert someone in dangerous waters seems like a good idea. Something you can pin to your suit or something?

john65pennington's avatar

The very last thing you are concerned with, when you are drowning, is blowing a whistle. you are fighting for breath of air and your brain will not allow you time to blow a whistle. next time you are in a swimming pool. put a whistle around your neck and pretend to be drowning. blowing that whistle takes a lot of air. if you are drowning, you do not have the air to spare.

Sisyphus's avatar

I recall blowing through a whistle that was full of water. This is purely based on an idea, but I seem to recall that it made more gargling version of the normal sound that any whistle makes. This was a whistle with a rubber ball in the chamber.

That being said, it would be a fairly benign drowning if there was time enough to blow a whistle to wait for help to arrive. Even then, someone who is drowning is already pretty obvious to onlookers, or else the movement of the water would make the whistle useless in helping to find that person anyway.

The best bet is likely still a bright orange life jacket!

JLeslie's avatar

I think the best solution is the buddy system. Good for kids and adults.

bpeoples's avatar

Important to remember that most people who are drowning (not a distressed swimmer) don’t look like you expect them to look like: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg534/On%20Scene/OSFall06.pdf (Page 15)

Basically—the instinctive drowning response is to basically “shut down”—you sort of glassy out, and float vertically with your mouth going in and out of the water. It’s really weird, but it’s what the body does when it thinks it’s drowning.

Judi's avatar

I’m thinking of the Titanic movie where they DID have a whistle.

Kayak8's avatar

Having been a lifeguard and having gotten a number of different whistles wet, it is not an effective strategy.

JLeslie's avatar

And there you go. I trust @Kayak8 on this one. He seems to be the resident expert.

Kayak8's avatar

@JLeslie We will do the gender identification flashcards later! LOL

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Here’s the link that @bpeoples put up, corrected (I hope). See page 14.

Great link, @bpeoples.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

The whistle included with most life jackets (and with all commercially provided life jackets that I’m aware of) is partly to help rescuers in low visibility conditions and calm water, such as night-time and fog conditions.

rowenaz's avatar

Thank you all for your answers. I was just wondering about it.

JeffeVerde's avatar

If drowning in very shallow water, you could use your whistle as a snorkel :)

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