Announcing SWBP's Ambassador Program

Shallow Water Blackout Prevention is pleased to announce the kick-off of its new Ambassador Program. This Program is designed for volunteers who have a desire to help raise awareness about Shallow Water Blackout and our organization around the country. We provide the materials for them to distribute within their community and serve as a resource to answer any questions raised by those with whom they connect. If you would like to learn more about becoming an Ambassador, please contact us at: [email protected]

Meet Our First Ambassador:

Benjy Jackson

Benjy lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and will turn sixteen in September. During a meeting with Benjy and his parents and grandparents, who were deeply involved in attempting to revive our Executive Director’s son after a Shallow Water Blackout, he asked if he could become involved with our cause. This became the impetus for creating the Ambassador Program. As part of his Community Service requirement for High School graduation Benjy will be distributing our informational / educational materials to local SCUBA and Dive Shops and other water-related entities within his community. He will also be making his contacts aware of our organization. Raising awareness about SWB will be his mission. Fort Lauderdale, located in Broward county ranks number one in the US for unintentional drownings where SWB is often associated.

Benjy enjoys fishing with his father, spending the summers with his grandparents in the Bahamas and boating; he received his Boaters License when he was fourteen. He loves music, plays the drums and according to his mother he just cannot get enough of being outside. We look forward to working with Benjy.

Shallow Water Blackout Prevention Selected as a Campaign Safety Leader (CSL) Partner by Pool Safely

To improve pool and spa safety, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched Pool Safely: Simple Steps to Save Lives, a national public education campaign to reduce childhood drownings, submersion injuries and entrapments.

The campaign is a call-to-action for consumers and industry to adopt proven water safety steps and join a national conversation about pool and spa safety by sharing best practices and other life-saving information.

Pool Safely has more than 1,000 partners nationwide that help share their water safety message. This diverse group provides information and resources to expand the reach of the campaign. Our organization is the first to focus on raising awareness about and the prevention of Shallow Water Blackout.

For more information about Pool Safely visit:



Please Visit Shallow Water Blackout Prevention’s Exhibitor’s Booth At The National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s 2017 Educational Conference.

Shallow Water Blackout Prevention is proud to be a participant in this year’s NDPA Educational Conference.  Please stop by our booth to learn more about our organization and what we are doing do eliminate the potential and tragic results of Shallow Water Blackout.  We will have information about what causes it and how it can be prevented along with educational materials and sample signage for pools that we make available to raise awareness and increase its prevention.

In addition to our being an Exhibitor the Vice Chairman of our Board, Dr. Tom Griffiths, President and Founder of the Aquatic Safety Research Group, and his daughter, Rachel, will be conducting a Breakout Session on Wednesday, April 12 from 9:35 AM to 10:20 AM.  The title of their session is: Heroes on Deck.  This presentation will help parents and aquatic professionals develop themselves and young lifeguards into heroes through more immediate action in situations when others need help.  Participants will learn to demonstrate heroism in everyday life.

We look forward to seeing you during this very important and informative Conference.  

New Research Shows Hyperventilation Not Necessary for SWB to Occur

On March 22, 2017, The Inertia published an article detailing new research that indicates hyperventilation is NOT necessary for SWB to occur.  You can read this informative article here.

The aquatics experts here at Shallow Water Blackout Prevention are very pleased to learn this (much needed) research is taking place.  Dr. Rhonda Milner, Founder and Chairman of SWBP, commented on the article, saying this:

Thank you, Phil for a great and enlightening article. Thank you Dr. Merritt for your research at VitalityPro. This explains why we at Shallow Water Blackout Prevention have said all along, blackouts do and can occur without hyperventilation.

This means that O2 depletion is as important as abnormally lowering CO2 levels with hyperventilation leading to SWB. That is why multiple, repetitive breath-holding laps are so dangerous. O2 levels can get so depleted, when not allowed a chance to be fully restored, that a person blacks out before they have CO2 levels high enough to signal them to breathe.

We have also found that a determined person can ignore his urge to breathe finding the urge to breathe temporarily subsiding. I would love to see research on the explanation and physiology of the observation. I suspect endorphins are released giving a feeling of euphoria. This all supports why multiple, repetitive, competitive breath-holding laps with hyperventilation are a lethal combination. Hence, the two Navy SEALs that died a few years ago in the base pool in Norfolk, VA while competing against each other doing breath-holding laps.

It looks like the pulmonary training program at VitalityPro is aerobically based which we have supported as how to best build and strengthen lung capacity with wind sprints, and so on. Hypoxic training underwater anaerobically is dangerous and can lead to blackout without warning. And, it certainly should never be performed without close supervision. As stated earlier, this research is so important because it proves that SWB is not only caused from hyperventilation, but from O2 depletion and inadequate restoration of O2 levels. It also gives further explanation for the cause of surface blackouts when free diving, besides redistribution of blood flow secondary to pulmonary pressure gradient changes.

I am so glad VitalityPro is doing this needed research on the physiology and causes of SWB. This is what we have so needed. Kudos to all involved at VitalityPro. Thank you, Dr. Frank Merritt for your research and as founder of VitalityPro, Brandon Rager as director of VitalityPro, and Phil White at for this article. We would love to add this article to our website and stay in touch with VitalityPro and their active research. Also, great chart illustration!

Thank you!
Rhonda Milner, MD
Founder and Chairman, Shallow Water Blackout Prevention

First Annual South Florida Water Safety Symposium

On March 3, 2017, Shallow Water Blackout Prevention made a presentation and conducted a Breakout Session at the First Annual Water Safety Symposium, which was held at the Sunrise Civic Center in Sunrise, Florida.  The Florida Department of Health in Broward County, Children’s Services Council, YMCA of South Florida, Swim Central, Water Smart Palm Beach, YMCA of Palm Beach County and Miami Dade Drowning Coalition collaborated with this event to bridge the gap between 3 counties and help educate the attendees of the crippling affects drowning has on their entire community.  Broward County and Miami-Dade County rank number 1 and number 2 respectively for drownings in the U.S.

The event was designed for aquatics professionals, health-care professionals, first responders and the public at-large.  Main Speakers and Breakout Session Presenters included: Edna Tello, M.D. FAAP, Robert J. Bertone, Public Education Officer, Coral Springs Fire Department, Jay Sanford, Manager, Broward County SWIM Central Program, Captain Todd Lutes, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Estela Rabin, M.D., FAAP, James Walker, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Child Protective Investigations Section, James S. O’Connor, Aquatic Safety Coordinator, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, Veronica Castro, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Support Specialist at Atlantic University, and Dean E. Haller, Executive Director, Shallow Water Blackout Prevention.

Over three hundred and fifty people from southern Florida attended the event and raising awareness and educating everyone about Shallow Water Blackout, its causes and prevention was front and center during the entire Symposium.

Children and Shallow Water Blackout

It’s Not Just About Elite Swimmers, Freedivers and People Who Spearfish.  Children Are Equally Susceptible to Shallow Water Blackout Too!

According to the World Health Organization there are over 375,000 drownings annually and it is the third leading cause of all unintentional deaths worldwide. Even though awareness about SWB is increasing, but slowly, experts believe that it remains the cause of more than 50% of all unintentional drownings worldwide and regrettably children are among its many victims. One in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. The Centers for Disease Control reports that for every child who dies from drowning in the U.S., another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.  Most drownings occur is private or public pools.

SWB occurs when the swimmer prolongs their breath holds underwater preceded by hyperventilating, which is the rapid and successive in-take of deep breaths and the expulsion of the air taken in. This is considered intentional hyperventilation and it is usually practiced for a minute or more.  Excessive physical activity such as playing tag or just running around in the yard or playground immediately prior to swimming can have the same physiological effect on the body. This is considered unintentional hyperventilation.

Unless a SWB victim’s pre-swimming activities are known it is almost impossible to assign SWB as the cause; therefore, related drowning victims are simply labeled as accidental.  Although it can happen at any depth many SWB victims drown in water less than 15 feet deep, hence the name.

How Can SWB be prevented:

  • Always monitor a child’s pre-swimming activities and require them to rest before swimming if they have been over-exerting themselves physically.

  • Never let children swim unattended or alone.

  • Never permit them to intentionally hyperventilate when they are swimming.

  • Never permit them to prolong their breath-holds or play breath-holding games when they are swimming.

    • Challenging each other to see who can stay under water the longest or trying to do so themselves.

    • Challenging each other or themselves to swim the most laps underwater.

Remember, Shallow Water Blackout is preventable and we strongly encourage all parents to follow the above guidelines.  

Study of Shallow Water Blackout Prevention Policies at 73 Pools Garners Negative Results

A Study Conducted by The Redwoods Group.


During the summer of 2016 The Redwood’s team designed a study of aquatic safety procedures to identify any potential gaps in Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) prevention practices and rule enforcement. The study spanned 73 YMCA associations in 17 states and the District of Columbia. At each observation, the team’s procedures included documentation across four categories:


  • Pool environment
  • Lifeguard behaviour
  • SWB simulation
  • Staff interviews


The study found SWB pool signage was inconsistent and sometimes nonexistent. Only 51.8% of pools displayed a sign related to prolonged breath holding. Of the pools that had signs, only 59.6% of the signs were both unobstructed and differentiated from their surroundings.

This study also revealed that even when SWB-related rules may be known, they may not be enforced consistently, if at all. 

Though 31.2% of lifeguards interviewed showed awareness of SWB-related rules, only 7.5% enforced those rules.

This study revealed meaningful gaps in the awareness and enforcement of Shallow Water Blackout prevention procedures in YMCA pools. To close the Awareness Gap and Action Gap, YMCAs should clarify and promote rules regarding Shallow Water Blackout and equip lifeguards with tools to simplify and maximize enforcement.

For more details on this study click here.

What precautions do your local aquatics managers take to prevent SWB from happening in their pool?  Please reach out and let us know. Send photos, or request a free poster or two to give to your pool manager. We need your help to prevent more senseless tragedies. Email [email protected] for more information on how you can help.




Student Witnesses Shallow Water Blackout

Recently there was an incident of Shallow Water Blackout during a high school swim practice.

 A student from the Benjamin Upper School in Palm Beach, Florida, Robert Rubin, tells his story on the the PharBlog...

The North Palm Beach Pool, the site of Benjamin's swim practices. Photo Courtesy of NBP Pool.

The North Palm Beach Pool, the site of Benjamin's swim practices. Photo Courtesy of NBP Pool.


"Less than a week ago, I witnessed teammate have a shallow water blackout during swim practice. It was a very alarming and terrifying experience, but thanks to quick response by coaches, fellow swimmers, and first responders, the person who suffered the blackout survived without any permanent damage. However, …."

Click here to continue reading...

We thank you, Robert, for helping to raise awareness and prevent more senseless tragedies.

US Coast Guard Warns Trainees of SWB

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

When speaking with ASTC  (Air Survival Technician Supervisor) Matthew Laub at the Coast Guard Air Station in Miami, we were pleased to learn that the trainers there are very aware of the dangers of shallow water blackout. Before each trainee begins training they must read and sign the form below. The form explains what SWB is and states that if the policy of no hyperventilating is violated the student will be removed from training.


We applaud the US Coast Guard for taking this step to prevent SWB and senseless tragedies!  This is another step in the right direction.

* Special thanks to ASTC Matthew Laub.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Tell Your Story, Win a $1000 Gift Certificate from Vasa

Coaches, we want to hear your stories!

Have you or someone you know experienced a shallow water blackout?  

Tell us your story and you will be entered to
win a $1000 gift certificate from Vasa.

Submit your story below, or email to [email protected]

Winner will be announced at the end of September, 2016.

(some restrictions apply)


Name *