Critical Incident Management: Expectations v. Reality

Have you been involved in a critical incident at an aquatic facility?  If so, were there any aspects of the incident that differed from how you may have expected it to go prior to the event?  These aspects really could be anything: the reality of performing CPR on a real human, the reality of providing other medical care to a victim, the interactions with news media and community members after the event, the challenges of providing support to employees after a critical incident, etc.  I am developing a presentation on the realities of critical incident management and would be interested in hearing your perspective on the differences between pre-event expectations and the post-event realities.  My goal is to explore the less obvious aspects of critical incident management so that our employees and organizations can be better prepared for the realities of critical incident management when such events do occur.  Thanks for your comments!

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I've never been involved in a critical incident while managing guards at an aquatic facility. However, I have been involved in a number of critical incidents while managing ocean guards (and I imagine the situation at a pool would be similar). 

The main thing that struck me is that no matter how much training or scenarios you do, it can never prepare you for the reality of doing CPR following a drowning incident.

Things can quickly become frantic. Some guards seize up. Others might start rushing about in a panic. Even those guards who remain calm and get down to the business of performing CPR will sometimes forget steps. 

Often a crowd will form to watch the guards as they perform CPR or put a patient on a stretcher. Some people will even try to get in close with their camera phones to take pictures (this has happened to me). There may be family or friends of the patient watching who are inconsolable or even angry, shouting that you have to do more. 

All of this to say that the way we teach critical incident responses sometimes gives lifeguards the impression it’s a science – your patient will be lying neatly on the floor of a classroom and you simply follow steps A, B and C for a successful outcome. The reality (in my experience at least) is it’s as much art as science. And more often than not (in the case of CPR) there won’t be a successful outcome.


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