Minnesota Swimmer Gets Frostbite After Being Forced Outside in Swimsuit

  11 Braden Keith | March 05th, 2014 | Featured, National, News

pinit fg en rect gray 28 Minnesota Swimmer Gets Frostbite After Being Forced Outside in Swimsuit

A freshman at Como Park High School in St. Paul, Minnesota told local CBS affiliate WCCO last week that she has frostbite on her feet after being forced to stand outside in a sopping-wet bathing suit during a fire drill.

Note that this is in late February, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where temperatures were below 0 and the windchill even lower (25 below, according to the article).

Kayona Hagen-Tietz, who was diagnosed to have gotten frostbite on her feet by a doctor, was along with one classmate one of only two swimmers left in the pool and wet when the fire alarm went off for what was ultimately a drill. The school’s strict policy for these drills mandated that she evacuate immediately, without drying off, and without putting on more clothes. She also wasn’t allowed to sit in a faculty member’s car to warm up for 10 minutes, before the school finally relented.

The parents’ complaint surrounds the school’s inability to adapt to the situation and take a swimmer out of the cold and to safety.

“If I had a fire and brought my children out in that condition, you know, I’m sure I would be charged in some way or another if I didn’t instantly bring them into a neighbor’s house or someplace else,” Tietz said to WCCO. “The ultimate goal is to keep them safe and protect your children, and, in this instance, they did a really poor job.”

While fire drills during swim practice are rare, and something that most coaches (myself included) wouldn’t necessarily consider as a real threat, in northern climates and during winter months (nowhere has been immune this year, it seems, from cold weather), it’s something that all coaches should be prepared for. Administrators of schools, YMCA’s and community pools are considering their broad memberships when they plan drills such as these, and it’s not until something truly terrible like this happens that they’ll consider specifically the 20 kids in your pool, soaking wet, in their swim suits, and with the tone of school systems at present (a topic for a different forum, but I think we all have the gist of what that tone is), the time it takes for a decision to be made confidently when these issues arise can be too long.

This is an unfortunate, but important, reminder of all of us to be prepared for this type situation. We at SwimSwam are sent many pictures of swimmers outside in snow in their suits, but it’s usually with boots on, while they’re dry, and for just long enough to take a picture. If you’re coaching in a cold climate, have a plan in case a fire drill, or even worse a real fire, were to happen.

Comments

  1. Mike Abegg says:
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    The stupid part is the school’s claim that you exit the building without taking time to put on proper clothing. NO. You ALWAYS assume its a real fire, which means you dress for the elements outside because you’ll be out there for a long time. Unless there’s an obvious immediate threat to life safety, taking the time to put on a coat and shoes is the APPROPRIATE response to a fire alarm.

    SPPS is probably civilly liable for the damages caused by having such a stupid stated policy.

    • Braden Keith Braden Keith says:
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      Mike – nailed it on the head. Pools will 99% of the time have direct access to the outside. If there were a fire raging at the side of the pool, perhaps you just go straight out the door. But if the risk of being outside is greater than the pending risk of the fire, you get dressed, then exit.

      What should REALLY have happened is the coach should’ve been warned about the drill, and without telling the swimmers to maintain the integrity of the drill, had them dressed and ready to go out.

      Here’s the real irony: in my experience, these rules are only strictly followed when there’s no real emergency. Having been through two actual fires in high school, and having coached a lot of kids who go to schools where there have been recent emergencies, it’s a really odd phenomenon. For example, a few weeks ago, there was a gun found on campus in an abandoned backpack. So they filed everyone out of school, kids were just walking home, getting in their cars and leaving, parents were coming to get them with no accounting for their whereabouts.

  2. Floppy says:
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    This is another situation where obeyance with protocols trumps common sense for school districts who have to worry about fines/lawsuits over the welfare of their students

  3. Swimmermama says:
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    I can’t believe an adult with socks on didn’t give the kids their shoes, or even a clipboard to stand on. I agree that the whole situation is absurd, but I also have to believe someone could have wrapped their feet in even a TShirt for 3-4 minutes to avoid frostbite if they’re going to try to follow the rules to the letter.

    • Roy says:
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      According to the WCCO story she wrapped her feet in a sweatshirt, but -5 F is very cold

    • DJ Narvaiz says:
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      Her fellow students tried wrapping her feet in t-shirts, and offered her pieces of clothing. They also huddledaround her trying to protect her from the wind and generate a little heat. The students were the teachers than day!

  4. NONA says:
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    When I was a club swimmer the heat from the pool deck would sometimes trigger a false fire alarm, due to a short in the system or something. My coach had us grab towels and gather in hallway near the exit, but we stayed inside as it was snowing out. He was arrested and charged with 45 counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Fortunately the charges were dropped as more sensible heads prevailed.

  5. Bossanova says:
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    This is ridiculous. I almost find it hard to believe! There has to be more to this story than what we’ve been told. I just can’t fathom people being that stupid as to force that girl to stand outside shoeless in a bathing suit in the snow. Anyone know how she’s doing now? To quote Walter from The Big Lebowski, “Has the whole world gone CRAZY?!”

  6. marc says:
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    These are our educators. God help us.

  7. Darla says:
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    What was the purpose of a fire drill in weather that cold regardless of whether a child was in a swimming pool or not. The children in jeans and sweaters were also at risk. Every one of the teachers who were out in the cold with all of those children should be suspended WITHOUT pay for at least a month. The administrators should be fired.

    • TheTroubleWithX says:
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      I think a) schools are often required/encouraged to do a fire drill every month, and b) a fire drill doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if it’s only done under ideal conditions. At my school, we’ve discussed doing a fire drill during lunch one day just to practice what needs to happen if there really was a fire during lunch.

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About Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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