The Redwoods Group has posted a powerful video (using real footage) to dramatically show how quickly a drowning can happen, and how it is quite different in appearance from the "Hollywood" version that most people are more familiar with.


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I believe the premise that Hollywood deceived us is unfair. Many, many people do exhibit classic signs of drowning which include random flailing arm movements and more. I think the video in its context is excellent, it seems designed to make camp counselors understand they need to scan bottom to top. Unfortunately there are still so many variables here that make them vulnerable to having this happen on their shift, failure to recognize, failure to act, surface distubance (can't scan "bottom to top" if you can't see the bottom). Supervisiing Lifeguards actively while layering aquatic protection and teaching guards "when in doubt, check it out" (if you think its a rescue, its a rescue) along with training that is focused on an obtainable response and care objective, like the 1 minute/2 minute response and care objective is how we will stop drowning in Lifeguarded pools. Truth, Justice and the Aquatic Way!
Jim, thanks for your reply. When went about designing the Wahooo® Swim Monitor System (SMS) to prevent needless and preventable drownings, we enlisted the help of leading aquatic safety experts, including Dr. Frank Pia and Gerry Dworkin. We also worked with the aquatic risk people at Redwoods.

We were immediately shocked to learn just how incredibly difficult it is to detect most drownings. With the unacceptable number of drowning incidents this year at guarded facilities (click here to read about them) it's important to get the word out about difficult and dangerous it is if guards and staff are unfamiliar with what to look for.

It's also important to distinguish here between characteristics of a drowning victim versus that of a distressed or exhausted swimmer. A distressed or exhausted swimmer is often able wave their arms and yell. A drowning victim isn't so fortunate. Their arms are trying to desperately bring their heads above water so they are typically below the surface. Victims are typically unable to yell as their throat has either closed up or their lungs have started to fill with water. As indicated by the video, it typically happens very quickly and quietly, with very little detectable motion.

I strongly urge everyone to visit a great discussion of the subject, Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning at the blog of Mario Vittone.
In regards to the Redwoods video, they are just trying to prove a point. Whether Hollywood and Baywatch made us think that drownings are supposed to happen like that is few and far between. We know that, but the general population does not. How many times while we were guarding when Baywatch was popular, did people identify us as them. Go ahead raise your hands. I would tell them, "No, we are the real thing." Baywatch is no longer popular and I haven't seen it in syndication for years. But, Hollywood did put on another show a couple years ago that was "real". Beach Patrol in Miami and San Diego. I've heard of it, but never saw it. Now with the advent of the DVR, I recorded a bunch of shows. I was hooked. Because, those incidents were real and all Hollywood did was record them. It showed the various "real-life scenes that Beach Lifeguards had to go through and how various agencies like Police and Fire Rescue were involved. If there is a Hollywood show to watch is this. Being a lifeguard, it made you almost feel what those guys and gals go through and it's eye opening. It made me give much respect to Beach lifeguards and that enormous amount of responsibility at the beach. We have to be mindful of that and our place of work. We have feet (distance) and they have miles. Our pool setting (dimensions) doesn't change. They have to put up flags to alert beach goers of today's condition in the water. They guard thousands of people and we may guard the capacity of the pool or lower. So, teaching our pool/waterpark lifeguards to be active while guarding is a must - slow or busy. So if you see a lifeguard just "sitting there" (They may have to be in the chair depending on your procedures). But, give them a reason to move and actively guard the pool from top to bottom, left to right, below the stand, around the corner, on the pool deck, etc. Do a drop drill and that will give them a reason to move! Lifeguarding is dynamic and it needs to be instilled or the example that the Redwoods video shows us may happen.
You are correct in many points. I agree in my five years on the beach as a open water guard in san diego, it is very different from working at the pool.


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