I always felt that ARC lifeguard training should place greater emphasis on surveillance - its methods, implementation, and follow-up training during recertification and challenges. While it might not be the best idea to make surveillance techniques more specific and rigid, would it not be wise to formally include surveillance as one of the skills to be evaluated during the lifeguard certification course and follow-up trainings?
I have worked in several aquatic facilities over the years, from small community pools, college campuses, waterparks and military bases to school districts and municipalities.
Many aquatic facilities allot a good deal of time and effort in training their lifeguards to maintain high surveillance standards, on and off the lifeguard stand, but then there are many other facilities that do not. Just as a lifeguard's CPR skill competency is tested and retested as a requirement for certification, the lifeguard's competency in surveillance should be tested and retested as well. Reinforcing surveillance as a fundamental component of the ARC Lifeguarding Course would help prevent management and lifeguard personnel from overlooking or forgetting the importance of consistent and effective surveillance. Considering that the ARC is the most widely recognized and prolific certifying organization for lifeguards, shouldn't the ARC take steps to bolster the segment on surveillance in its training program?
Please let me know your thoughts.
A couple of things from my perspective...
1) The current ARC program hits the important points of surveilance. What to look for in victim recognition, general tips on scanning, common problems and obstacles. One issue is, with the exception of a handful of aquatic specific research (Pia, Griffiths, E&A's VAT study from around 2001), there really isn't much to look at in terms of validated research. You have to look at non-aquatic studies that are similar in task focus / task settings (ex: the FAA did a study on vigilance / task focus for airline pilots).
2) The inital training of lifeguards is really only a small part of the picture. The majority comes into play at the facility. Each facility is different in terms of environment and design. There's no real way to have a "carte blanche" approach in a general training manual. To get much more specific (although it could be expanded on slightly more in the lifeguard managment course), would take the ARC further down the road of facility managment...which is somewhere it doesn't need to be, based on it's charter and mission.
The final question is...how would the ARC evaluate surveilance skills? While some instructors do use shadows and submersible manikins, I can see how it would be difficult to incorporate these without advocating a particular product, which I would rather not see the program do. Also, in the final skills evaluation...there is a surveilance component. The lifeguard candidate has to identify the victim and correctly respond. That's about as close as a training program can get, without being a facility specific program that pairs new lifeguards with experienced lifeguards (such as most USLA beaches).
I apologize for the delayed response. My computer finished its lifespan recently.
Thank you for the detailed and informative response. I agree that surveillance is facility specific and more a management issue and difficult to implement with a blanket approach , aside from the components ARC already covers well, as you point out.
My posting comes from personal observations - that the degree of attention to surveillance can make a drastic difference in the preventive capacity of a facility. Being so important, I felt the ARC could emphasize it more in its training course and procedures, perhaps through a more outlined and formal evaluative process. But again, it is more of a management and facility specific issue. After reading your and Jim's response, I can see why the ARC has not done so thus far.
Just an extra FYI on my part as an ARC I/IT...
"I" consistantly stress the "prevention" of drownings in my teaching. Our job is to prevent these accidents from happening as much a knowing how to handle them if they do happen.
Many mention they hadn't heard it put that way before....
I am curious as to how you would propose to teach this, Terri Smith and her "Vigilence Voice" is probably one of the best techniques to teach one scanning strategies, but I am not sure it would fit in a course. VAT testing is good, but as I have said many times, there is no way anyone is getting near my water with a manikin without me seeing it coming, thats part of "being on top of everything". NASCO uses a black CD rom sized disc that can be slipped in easily but it still has the "sneak" factor to it, someone has to get near the pool.
I agree with Dewey in that for now it is all about what happens once hired and how the agency breaks in new guards.
Thank you for the response. I agree that surveillance is facility specific and more a management issue.
I agree that motivation is a huge factor, but often times even motivated lifeguards are either unaware or have forgotten the importance of surveillance. And although management is largely responsible for making sure the guards are scanning the facility properly and consistently, I've come across many in management positions who also say such things as "oh, it's the swim team. They know how to swim; nothing will happen." In most instances, it's not so much that the managers are intentionally slacking, but again, the managers of the facilities are also unaware or have forgotten the importance of the preventive capacity of effective surveillance. I thought that perhaps a more formal approach to implementing proper surveillance into the lifeguard program might help remind and keep everyone in tune.
Without the annual recertification requirement, for example, I can see myself slacking on maintaining CPR/AED/O2 competency. I might even find myself mistakenly thinking, "no one ever has a heart attack around here - all the patrons swim regularly and are very healthy, so nothing to worry about." Though rather cumbersome at times, I am quite grateful that I have been required to renew my CPRPR/AED certifications every year. Might some sort of formal refresher for surveillance be helpful for similar reasons?
But as you point out, it would be very difficult to teach and evaluate scanning techniques and strategies. And as you also point out, it would be even more difficult to include that in a lifeguard course. I had not thought it out thoroughly enough.
So continuing to think this through... If formal surveillance techniques and their evaluation is impractical, is there no other formal way for the ARC to encourage regular communication and training to help remind lifeguards and managers of the importance of effective surveillance? Maybe some sort of outline on surveillance procedures to be determined by the facility management and implemented in ongoing trainings? Much like an Emergency Action Plan, the ARC could mandate that an outline on surveillance strategies be posted in written form, while allowing ample room for the outline to be custom-tailored to fit the specific needs and requirements of the facility.
What are your thoughts Jim?
The problem with the ARC mandating anything, is that it's a certification agency and not a managment agency. The moment the ARC starts mandating, they are open for inclusion in litigation - which would not serve the mission, per its congressional charter, well. Other agencies, such as NASCO and Ellis, are more successful at implementing such things, but the nature of what they do is different. The reputation (and to some degree the financial well-being) of their agencies are tied to how well the lifeguard performs...which obviously includes patron surveilance.
This is an eternally recurring discussion, as surveilance will always be an issue as long as we have humans sitting in the chairs. The real key is management. If management doesn't have the proper outlook towards patron surveilance, and reinforces it with their staff...all the outlines, forms, and training procedures will fail. It has to start with management, and be constantly reinforced to the lifeguards.
Thank you again for your insight, Dewey. I was unaware of the legal issues involved. And again, you are right that these are management issues.
So then, aside from hiring an outside agency such as the ones you mentioned above, is it not possible to instill a surveillance culture at facilities where management does not yet have a proper outlook on patron surveillance? I strongly believe that education and ongoing communication can make a substantial difference. Unfortunately, many aquatic facilities lack the foresight or available funds to provide continued education and training for their management personnel.
Lifeguard surveillance is on the top of our in-service monthly drills. We also do the body drops throughout the week making sure to hit different shifts.Maybe the RC will have this important component in the new roll out ? We can only hope.