I am in the process of writing-up/implementing a scanning audit for our aquatic staff.  We are an American Red Cross facility and we currently do an on-stand professionalism evaluation (posture, bottom scan, attentive, uniform, etc.) but do not have a tool to test what THEY REALLY SEE.  I am aware that E&A have a scanning audit standard but my question is, what do YOU do for testing your staff's ability to scan/recognize what is in their zone?  What kind of drills/audits do you do for this (red ball/silhouettes /Timmy/etc.)?  What
information is written in you SOP regarding this?  What is your disciplinary
action for a failed audit?  Anything else that would help me write this up?  Any procedural write-up would be helpful but not necessary; I am just getting a feel for what everyone else is doing. 

Thanks for your time,

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I have co-developed a rubric called shadow guarding grid. We use it to evaluate lifeguards to determine what percentage of their time is on task and off task. Happy to discuss with you if interested.

Also use the S.T.A.R.R. Method for Aquatic Emergencies. Scan, Target, Assess, Rescue, and Removal. This was published in American Lifeguard Magazine.

Feel free to email me at robert.ogoreuc@sru.edu

We use a red ping pong ball. We give it to a patron and have them release it in the water. We also will use lifeguards or other staff to have difficulty in the water and give them a set of things that they can and can't do. For a failed audit they are taken off stand and have 48 hours to come in and do training then they will be re audited again. As far as some drills that work take 2 blank TP rolls and use them as spy glasses and have them scan the water with them, place differant objects in the water some that float and some that sink and have them count out the number and or discribe what thet see
For the "red ball" drill, what do you have as a written procedure? How long do they have to recognize and rescue the ball? Do you have any back-up coverage for the zone once the guard enters the water? I like the 2 TP roll idea too, that is great. Thanks for the input.
Those of you that use a "red ball drill" with your staff, I am curious, what type of ball do you use?  I am looking for this to be a surface scanning assessment tool following the 10/20 rule.  How do you have your staff respond (enter the water and retrieve, hand signal when recognized, etc.).  Let me know what you think...

Whats Up Gator?


In my past agency we used a red "kickball" very large, easy to spot. I did use a 30 second standard, basically we tossed it into the pool from over a fence or other hidden vantage points. Honestly, we are in the land of year round pools outdoors, so in the winter I was finding complacent lap swim guards with twenty layers of clothes, or leaving the stand to watch the pool from the door near the office where the other person was supposed to be watching a counter. I used it simply to see if they would spot it and get to it within 30 seconds, they had the option to try and strip down and go in the water in a suit or fully dressed, sweats, parka, etc... All I cared about was their ability to get to a problem quickly, never really developed a SOP. As for the discpline for not seeing it and getting to it in 30 seconds, we sent them home immediately and took away another shift if they took over 1 minute to see it. Needless to say, we never did the drill when we didn't have the time to fill out their shift if they failed! 

We use the "timmy" manikin and did 1 drop a day last year at all of my pools.  This year we are doing 2/day.  The more lifeguards get used to seeing a life-sized body on the bottom of the pool, the more they learn to recognize it.  We are an E&A client so we have a remediation process already set forth through the CARMP that involves re-training and in-service in the event of a failed audit.  I'm not a fan of the red ball; that's not what I want my guards looking for. 
I have heard many times from my close friend and President of NASCO that red ball drills are no good because "red balls don't drown". As I stated earlier, we use red balls to make sure a guard can get out of winter clothing and into the pool in an acceptable amount of time, not to simulate a victim. Whereas I do believe there is some merit to George's statement that using a "timmy" gets staff used to looking for a size and shape is this similar to a victim: if you can actually get a dummy into a lifeguards zone while they are scanning properly, then you have performed a miracle. A good lifeguard, that is scanning well should catch the timmy being put in their water before it ever gets to the pool. It is a good test for really poor scanners, but not for guards that know how to watch the water well. So maybe it teaches lifeguards that don't get it how to look harder, but ultimatley those guards need to be selling hamburgers, not defending peoples lives.

Jim, I like your thoughts.  I am always impressed with my guards when I cannot physically slip "timmy" in the water because they are scanning so well.  What we try to do is slip "timmy" in when they are resetting their 10 second scan.  If they are starting their scan to the left, then we put him in on the right and vice versa.  Or, we sometimes have a guest conceal him in an innertube at our wave pool and drop him once they get out in the water. 


So this discussion begs the question...for guards that know how to watch their water well, how do we test if they are really seeing?  Not just moving their heads continuously, but actually perceiving what's in their zone?  Right now I go with the "timmy" because I haven't come across anything better.

In a typical flat-water pool, I agree it can be hard to get the mannequin in the water without being seen, but I have no problem with that.  If my guards see it before it gets in the water, I know they're being vigilant and the drill has been successful.  In other types of facilities, it's easy to get the mannequin in.  Tell one person on a lazy river to ignore it when you put it in so it floats into the zone of the next guard (while stationing someone nearby in case a patron notices it), etc.  I'll also often place a mannequin in the deep end just before a rotation - this ensures the guards are using a proactive bottom scan before assuming control of their zone. 

I value the mannequin drops because I think it's important for staff to realize that a body on the bottom of the pool doesn't always look like a body, and that if they're not sure, they'd better get wet to find out.

I like the shadow doll, because guys with long trunks can hide it up their leg and pull it out once they are in the water. I ask guests in trunks to do it for me. Downfall is during lap swim, the time I think most likely that guards will become inattentive, there is rarely someone in long trunks. To solve this I sometimes inform the guards on duty that I am dropping a doll and to leave it alone, and then I watch the guard coming back from "off rotation time" to see how long it takes to spot it, hopefully during his bottom clear before he ever takes the stand!


I also like the Vigilance Voice technique. If the deck maanger continually approaches guards and has them voice what they are seeing, it teaches them to look better.

Again, I would like to present an opposing point of view.

Red shirt drills, red balls, silhouettes, dolls, etc. are not reliable tests of lifeguard attention during surveillance. When a lifeguard takes longer than you expect to react to one of these items in the pool, he or she make actually be doing a great job of enforcing facility rules and seeking out those behaviors and activities that may truly develop into an injury or submersion incident.

To ensure effective surveillance and attention capture, a lifeguard must hold in mind the behaviors of distressed and drowning victims, the rules to be enforced in his/her area of responsibility, and conditions/activities that might be hazardous or lead to injury. If the lifeguard is scanning without these "controls" in mind, he or she is liable to miss something important. Relying on the activity/behavior to stand out so that it is recognized and identified without "programming" the mind with the "controls" previously described is to relegate victim recognition to "hit-or-miss" attention capture.

If the lifeguard is focusing on the things he or she needs to detect to prevent injuries and make timely rescues, he or she may or may not notice a red ball or a manikin at the bottom of the pool. And if the lifeguard is trying to do well on this sort of test, he or she might be looking for the red ball, etc., which in turn takes some attention away from identifying real trouble.

Just to follow up, I have an information sheet (which I wrote) on the subject of scanning and attention capture. Check it out here: http://watersafetyguy.org/documents/InfoSheet_LG-0001-2A.pdf. Let me know what you think.


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