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.

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11 Comments on "Minnesota Swimmer Gets Frostbite After Being Forced Outside in Swimsuit"

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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.

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


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.

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

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!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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