Video captures 5-year-old's heroic efforts to save her drowning mom

Mar 23, 2016 at 1:06 p.m. ET
Image: Trinette Reed/Getty Images

A Texas 5-year-old is getting some well-deserved kudos today after a video surfaced of her doing something incredibly heroic. The little girl — Allison Anderwald — was having a quick dip in the family pool with her mother, Tracy, last Friday, when suddenly the unthinkable happened: Her mother had an unexpected seizure and fell, unconscious, into the pool.

At an age when some kids are just learning to swim, Allison — who has been swimming since the age of 2 — calmly waded into the water, went to her mother and dragged her to safety, potentially saving her mom's life.

Take a look for yourself. The video's a little grainy, but at about 30 seconds in you can see the tenacious little swimmer come to her mother's rescue: | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

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What makes this story so incredible is that often when we talk about pool safety, we're thinking of it the other way around — how can we teach kids about staying safe in the pool? We put a lot of emphasis — and rightly so — on keeping an eagle eye on our swim vest-bedecked kids because we want to be sure that if they become overwhelmed or start to tire, the worst won't happen. We don't often think of kids as being strong enough or knowledgeable enough to rescue even themselves, let alone an adult.

But maybe we should.

Time and time again, we do hear stories of kids as young as 2 years old springing into action and keeping their cool in catastrophe situations like house fires or medical emergencies. These kids and kids like Allison prove that, with the right tools, your children can keep themselves and others safe in dangerous situations too.

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The first step is awareness. What all these kids have in common is that they didn't have spontaneous epiphanies about what to do. They knew what was going on and how to handle it. When a 9-year-old saved his sister from drowning, he was able to do so because his parents had prepped him on emergency preparedness and — get this — helped him earn his CPR certification. Kids can (and should) learn how to administer basic first aid and CPR, but before you even get there, experts encourage parents to teach kids how to dial and speak to 911.

Give them age-appropriate ways to relay important information, and then practice. You can always go get one of those old antique landlines, unplug it and do some dry runs that will show kids how they can help in an emergency situation.

A key part of that, says human behavior and parenting expert Dr. Gail Gross, is having the ability to stay calm and focused. Scary situations trigger all kinds of high-octane responses, which actually makes it harder to act quickly. Her three tips for remaining calm in an emergency — relaxing your muscles, breathing deeply and visualizing a good outcome — can be practiced with kids alongside the more action-oriented lessons in dialing 911.

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Finally, encouraging kids to learn basic first response and CPR techniques is really important. Kids as young as 9 or 10 are usually strong enough to do chest compressions, but there's no minimum age for most training classes, and a lot of places will offer youth and teen training for free. The Red Cross even has a neat app called Monster Guard that teaches and then tests kids on their preparedness knowledge.

Perhaps the most important thing of all, however, is modeling cool, collected emergency sense, according to New York pediatrician and Red Cross adviser Dr. David Markenson. If kids see you freaking out and panicking, they'll be less likely to keep their cool when they need it the most.