Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
Stay current on water safety awareness:

Meet Mario Vittone – the J.K. Rowling of drowning prevention

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on June 20, 2012

Mario Vittone has one goal: to get rid of the myth or misconception that you can hear drowning, that you know when someone is drowning because there is some sign, other than looking directly at the person, to indicate that they are drowning.

Meet Mario Vittone, author of the only article on drowning to ever go viral, ‘Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning”. The article is based on Dr. Frank Pia’s 40-year old research on what drowning really does look like, research that is still not incorporated into all rescue training standards, despite the importance of the work. Mario wrote the article, based on Dr. Pia’s research, in 2006 after he noticed a disconnect in observations by trained rescuers. A rescue helicopter pilot and a rescue swimmer were debating about whether a family was drowning or just needed monitoring until the rescue boats arrived. The problem? They didn’t ‘look’ like they were drowning. (They were.)

Like J.K. Rowling with the multiple rejections of Harry Potter, it took five years of little interest before the article took off because it was originally deemed ‘too dark’ and ‘too scary’. Fortunately, a mom’s group picked it up and when their servers crashed because of the response, it went viral. Now Mario spends 6-7 hours a day in the summer responding to questions and granting permission to reprint, after he finishes his normal work day. (He always says yes to reprint – remember, his goal is to get the word out there). It’s been translated 14 times, is mentioned about 16,000 times on Google, and if you haven’t read it yet, here’s the link again. Or check out some of Mario’s other excellent articles at his web-site www.mariovittone.com.

Unlike J.K. Rowling, who ‘only’ writes, Mario’s normal work day is conducted as a member of our Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, a very small service. To put it in perspective, there are more New York Police officers than there are uniformed Coast Guard members. Last year they took in only 500 recruits. If you want to be a helicopter rescue swimmer like Mario was, you have to be prepared. In Mario’s half-joking words, ‘They try to kill you.” Not literally obviously, but the training prepares you to be an independent operator because out in the open water there are no walls to hang on to, no one to help you, and many changing and unknown variables. You have to be able to handle anything. If you make the cut, the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer is the gold standard for training prior to any other aquatic rescue career path. Like any elite group of the Armed Forces, it takes an inner strength and determination to succeed – just being an outstanding swimmer and physically or mentally fit isn’t enough – you have to be tested against the most unforgiving of the elements and not just survive but rescue others in distress in chaotic and challenging conditions

Knowing Mario is working to end drowning, through both his words and his actions, I think we have a chance of doing just that.

More about Mario: Mario has been serving in the United States Armed Forces since 1983. He began his career in the Navy and in 1991 joined the Coast Guard. Mario began his career as a rescue swimmer in 1994 after graduating from Helicopter Rescue Swimmer School.

Mario is one of the services leading experts on immersion hypothermia, drowning, sea survival, and safety at sea. His writing has appeared in Yachting Magazine, SaltWater Sportsman, MotorBoating Magazine, Lifelines, On-Scene, and Reader’s Digest.

Previous post:

Next post:

don’t just tread water get updates: