Infant Self Rescue – A real life saver

I originally posted this on my personal, and neglected, blog at in 2012. Since then Nathan has become an excellent swimmer and we intend to enroll his new little brother in the program in a few months as well. You can find the original post here.

It happened so quickly. When they say it only takes a second, they aren’t kidding. It seems more like half a second.

We were sitting on the edge of the pool. Me, my not quite 2 son Nathan, and my 20 year old niece just enjoying some family time. Suddenly a little bunny rabbit wandered into the yard. Nathan got so excited and pointed to make sure I saw it. By the time I swung my head left and and saw the rabbit, Nathan was in the pool. Just that fast, less than a second.

His feet sank quickly away from me and all I could think was to get to him before he took a breath underwater. I jumped in, fully clothed, iPhone and all, and grabbed him out of the water. He wasn’t under water for more than a few seconds but it seemed like an

Nathan swimming in 2014

Nathan swimming in 2014

eternity. Thankfully, he was ok. A little startled but no worse for wear.

After things calmed down down I started to think, Nathan never attempted to get his head above water after he fell in, he just sank. Apparently, the instinct to get to the surface is not something that a child has innately in them.

My wife started researching the subject, she found this program called ISR, Infant Swim Resource. We found an instructor, Tracy Herbst at Arcadia ISR, that teaches out of her home and signed Nathan up. The ‘lessons’ are 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 4-6 weeks. The program teaches infants, toddlers and children to swim to the surface of the water if they fall in the pool and to either float until rescued or swim to the side and crawl hand over hand their way out. The floating is key, until children are about 4 years old, their head is most of their body weight so when they try to take a breath their feet sink and it is almost impossible for them to get their head above water. This is just one of the reasons ISR is so important.

When we first started the program all Nathan did was scream like a banshee but after a few weeks he became more comfortable and was swimming , floating and able to get himself to the surface of the water. Five weeks later he passed his final test which included self rescue and how to get himself out of the pool once to the side, fully clothed.

Now, this is not a full proof drowing preventor by itself, Nathan still requires supervision around a pool and while swimming. However, it does provide some peace of mind for my wife and I that if he were to fall in, he has a better chance of surviving that event now.

Tracy’s website says it best, “Sadly swimming is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of four in Arizona.” This is an extremely important resource for parents to know about so please share it with your friends.

Here are a few more resources to check out:

Arcadia ISR – The instructor, Tracy Herbst, is outstanding. She is very patient and loves teaching children.

Infant Swim Self Rescue™ Survival Swimming Lessons – learn about the program and find an instructor.

Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona – Excellent resource for parents.


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