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 *

SWBP at ASCA World Clinic

L-R: Britt Jackson, Terry Jackson, Isabelle Trogdon

L-R: Britt Jackson, Terry Jackson, Isabelle Trogdon

SWBP is thrilled to be part of the
2016 ASCA World Clinic in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  

Swim coaches from all over the world have stopped by our booth to share their stories about shallow water blackout and what they are doing to prevent it among their students and swim clubs.  We have received wonderful, positive feedback, and are excited to create new partnerships and connections with aquatics professionals from all corners of the earth.

If you are at the Clinic, don't forget to stop by to say
hello and give our prize wheel a spin!

Nuclear Plant Safety Group Welcomes SWBP

On Thursday, August 11th, a group of safety professionals at the Savannah River Site welcomed SWBP's Operations Manager, Britt Jackson, to their monthly safety awareness meeting.  Britt spoke to a group of over 100 safety professionals about the dangers of shallow water blackout and how it can be prevented.  SWBP would like to give special thanks to Barbara Paulos, co-chair of the safety committee, for being such a wonderful hostess.

If you would like a SWBP representative to speak to your group or committee, please contact us at [email protected]  We would love to speak with you!

Beloved Man Drowns While Spearfishing Off Florida Coast

On July 9, 2016, Ruben "Papa" Perez suffered a shallow water blackout while spearfishing off the coast of Florida.  His cousin, Amanda, contacted us today with his story.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Papa's family and friends during this time or mourning. We are devastated by this news.
For the official news report of this drowning please click here

Ruben "Papa" Perez

Ruben "Papa" Perez

Below is Papa's story, as told by his cousin, Amanda Balius:

Ruben "Papa" Perez
June 6, 1987-July 9, 2016
Play in the Sun, Love by the Moon

Ruben Anthony Perez, aka Papa, was a fish out of water. Since he was 9 months old he was always in the water whether swimming or fishing. He was an amazing human being, a selfless soul who loved to bring out the happiness in others. He lived his life humble and kind and always left an unforgettable impression unique laugh and tone of voice. On July 9th 2016 just ten days from marrying the love of his life Lindsey, Papa had a fatal diving accident which was the result of shallow water blackout. Our entire family is devastated and we continue to ask ourselves how this could of happened when papa was such a skilled swimmer/diver/spearman. After researching and watching videos, even the most skilled swimmer/diver/spearman can experience and ultimately die from what took our Papa. Like any other weekend, papa along with two other divers went spear fishing off of Elliot Key in Biscayne, Florida. Papa and a friend dove in together that morning while his father in law Mark stayed above the surface on the boat on July 9th. The two divers returned to the surface together, but there was a hogfish Papa just couldn't let get away and told Mark he'd be right back. That was the last Mark and his friend saw and heard from papa. Although we are grateful for all the help from the Coast guard and FWC who searched for Papa, Mark was the one that ultimately never gave up and finally found him. Without Mark, we wouldn't have our boy back and give him the proper services he deserved. It is so important that divers/spearman remember to stay in a group even if they want to go for one last dive. Had it not been for that last hogfish, maybe Papa would still be here with us today. No family should have to lay their loved ones to rest, especially so young with so much life still yet to live.

Ruben "papa" Perez is survived by his amazing mother Maggie, father Ruben, sister Madelin, brother Marcus, fiancé Lindsey and family and friends. We love you forever and always and will miss you until then we will meet you at the moon.

Please be safe, educate yourselves about swb, and never go back in alone. God bless you all and please pray for our family as well as the many others who have suffered such loss.

Thank you, Amanda Balius (cousin of Papa)

Photo courtesy of Amanda Balius

Photo courtesy of Amanda Balius