Tom Griffiths's Blog (23)

Again with the Cloudy Water??

About 40 years ago when I began my career in aquatics I was quick to learn the importance of keeping swimming pool water crystal clear. And back then it wasn’t as easy as it is now; we hand fed pools with chlorine and tested the water chemistry manually as well. Nearly half a century later, I’m still consulted on drowning cases where non-swimming children have disappeared in the deep end of the pool but no one can recover, rescue or resuscitate the kids because they can’t find them. Simply…


Added by Tom Griffiths on February 16, 2015 at 4:35pm — 1 Comment

Drowning Deaths are just the Tip of the Iceberg

When I took my first American Red Cross Junior Life Saving (yes, you read that right) course, this little brown book stated that there were approximately 12,000 drowning deaths each year in the United States. Then after many years the drowning rate dropped to about 7,000 drowning deaths per year and stayed there for a while. Even with the population growing, much improved data collection, and many more water sports and activities to produce drowning, the fatal drowning rate now is below…


Added by Tom Griffiths on December 17, 2014 at 4:55pm — 3 Comments

Superficially Shallow

Most shallow water pools in the US are just too deep. We have a discerning depth in the United States that doesn’t make much safety sense: Five Feet. Swimming pool water is considered to be shallow when it is less than five feet while deep water is defined as any depth greater than five feet. Consider that the average American child does not reach a height of five feet until they are 12 years old. That places a significant number of young children at the risk of drowning in our “safe”…


Added by Tom Griffiths on November 21, 2014 at 4:05pm — No Comments

How ‘bout that MAHC

No I am not kidding! I read the entire first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). And I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. Seven years of hard work was worth the wait. The roughly 700 pages of the MAHC is enough to intimidate anyone, but the more I read it the more I liked it. Nearly 40 pages of Table of Contents is a good indication that the MAHC is certainly comprehensive. As I worked my way from the actual codes to the annex, I began to realize that the MAHC was an…


Added by Tom Griffiths on October 20, 2014 at 6:43pm — 1 Comment

What’s up with Secondary Drowning???

Perhaps the most popular water safety story in the media these days is about Secondary Drowning. Although this phenomenon may be new to the media, it has been studied by physicians for decades. Fortunately, the condition is extremely rare. It most often occurs after a successful water rescue when a child has been pulled from a pool by a parent or lifeguard who at first appears to be perfectly fine. Then hours after the incident, the child shows subtle yet significant symptoms. Inhaling pool…


Added by Tom Griffiths on June 11, 2014 at 2:26pm — 4 Comments

Teach your Parents Well

The month of May, Water Safety Month, is a good time to educate parents, especially when it comes to families attending public pools during the summer months. Parents can become too over reliant on the lifeguards on duty and over-confident with their children in the water. Use your public relations and marketing skills to get parents on your side before the summer begins. Encourage them to get wet and enjoy the water with their children rather than observing from afar, that is the pool deck,…


Added by Tom Griffiths on May 9, 2014 at 4:33pm — No Comments

Why ask Why????

It’s good to question why we do things the way we do. This holds true for all endeavors including water safety. At the recent AOAP conferences, several excellent presentations were provided that questioned our traditional water safety approaches. First, an ER doctor presented valuable data convincing the audience that getting air into the lungs and oxygen to the brain of a drowning victim was of the utmost importance and should be a priority. Although most if not all training agencies…


Added by Tom Griffiths on March 20, 2014 at 7:03pm — No Comments

Time to Identify Non-swimmers

One thing that makes lifeguarding so challenging is the fact that many lifeguards cannot determine who is the next Michael Phelps and who is the next victim until it is too late. The first priority at every facility should be to identify all non-swimmers with either highly visible wristbands or necklaces. Once that is accomplished, parents and other patrons should be informed of the non-swimmer designation so they can assist lifeguards keeping these sinkers safe. My wife often reminds me of…


Added by Tom Griffiths on December 19, 2013 at 10:52am — 2 Comments

Situational Awareness at Aquatic Facilities

The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Asiana Airline Crash, and the young boy flying to Las Vegas without parent or ticket all evoked a new and important phrase, Situational Awareness (SA), or the lack thereof. Several different definitions of SA come from aviation, the military, counter-terrorism agencies and others. Situational Awareness simply means a heightened mindfulness or awareness of your immediate surroundings. During many catastrophic events when innocent…


Added by Tom Griffiths on November 11, 2013 at 4:10pm — 1 Comment

The Case of the Invisible Swimmer

Did you read the enlightening article by attorney Gregory A. Anderson titled the Case of the Invisible Swimmer in the latest issue (10/13) of Aquatics International? If not, you should. Gregory provides an in-depth analysis of a silent death/drowning that ended up in litigation. Many if not most of these cases are in fact “silent drownings” which nobody sees. The educational part of this article is the way Gregory explains the intricacies of the lawsuit. He does a wonderful job…


Added by Tom Griffiths on October 9, 2013 at 5:50pm — No Comments

Time to Ramp up as Summer Wraps up

I was taught very early in my career that Aquatics is much like Farming; the more you do in the off-season, the more productive your summer will be.  Perhaps that was because my first boss was a real farmer who actually turned his dairy farm into a fresh-water, water park because of all the natural springs located on his property.  After taking a big breath and great sigh of relief that another summer has passed us by, begin to think about next year, NOW.  What can you do now…


Added by Tom Griffiths on September 14, 2013 at 10:36am — No Comments

Rapper can teach us much about drowning prevention

In his recent story about his childhood near fatal drowning event, of the Black Eyed Peas can teach us all a thing or two about drowning prevention. After his mother told him adamantly to keep out of and stay away from swimming pools because he did not know how to swim, he did exactly what his mother asked him not to do. Although he was a non-swimmer he entered the shallow, three foot section of a swimming pool and walked directly into water over his head. Although he was submerged…


Added by Tom Griffiths on September 14, 2013 at 10:30am — No Comments

Role Reversal at Swimming Pools

In many respects, open-water and water park lifeguards are more vigilant than swimming pool lifeguards because they know they are going to get wet helping guests due to waves, currents and high speed rides.  Critical incidents are also more likely to happen at these aquatic facilities because of the sheer number of people as well as the many and varied challenges swimmers and waders face in these moving waters.  Although swimming pool lifeguards may think their jobs are much easier…


Added by Tom Griffiths on August 16, 2013 at 3:46pm — 1 Comment

Committing Blasphemy

I know we will be getting a lot of backlash and negative comments about this blog because our opinions are probably in the minority as we are rocking the traditional water safety boat. We do however believe that what we have to say is extremely important and should be analyzed objectively by those who read it.

More and more actual drowning scenarios are being caught on security cameras but unfortunately, only lawyers and expert witnesses typically get to see them; water safety…


Added by Tom Griffiths on July 18, 2013 at 9:00am — 13 Comments

Lap Swimming Losses

State College, PA is a relatively small college town with relatively few pools but we have had a rash of sudden deaths during laps swims lately. In a little over four years we have had four major cardiac arrests in four different pools during lap swims in our little town with three out of four being fatal.


First in 2008, a year before my retirement from Penn State University, a professor died suddenly while swimming his daily mile. Shortly after my retirement from Penn State…


Added by Tom Griffiths on June 17, 2013 at 7:24pm — 6 Comments

Mindlessness to Mindfulness

With the big Memorial Day weekend coming up to kick off the traditional summer season, we hope lifeguards will make every attempt to convert “mindlessness” to “mindfulness.” In a survey we recently conducted and published in IJARE, vol. 7, issue 1 with nearly 900 lifeguards, one of the most common responses lifeguards said they feel while lifeguarding is “bored” and “boredom” while providing visual surveillance.




Added by Tom Griffiths on May 21, 2013 at 10:52am — No Comments

SWB: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Just when the major water safety agencies (ARC, YMCA, NSPF and others) come together to ban excessive and prolonged underwater swimming and breath-holding to combat unconsciousness and drowning, the media kicks it up a notch by glorifying this deadly practice.  The movie Chasing Mavericks is a must see for anyone in water safety. This story about a young boy who trains to become a world class big wave surfer, repeatedly shows his breath-holding antics, in the classroom, in his bathtub, in…


Added by Tom Griffiths on April 23, 2013 at 11:48am — 1 Comment

March is the Month for Opportunity!!!

Two exciting conferences are coming up soon and all aquatic professionals should do their best to be there. One is the Association of Aquatic Professionals (AOAP), March 3 March 6 in Austin, TX and the other is National Drowning Prevention Alliance(NDPA) in Ft. Lauderdale March 13-15, 2013. While both conferences offer excellent educational and networking possibilities, they do cater to slightly different audiences.  AOAP tends to draw aquatic professionals working at municipal pools, YMCA,…


Added by Tom Griffiths on February 11, 2013 at 9:20am — 2 Comments

When it comes to your EAP - Don't Blow it!

As we prepare for summer and reexamine our Emergency Action Plans (EAP), I believe the trusty lifeguard whistle should now be scrutinized for its role when a catastrophe strikes. When investigations take place after a drowning or other serious water emergency, the actual use of the whistle often comes into question.  Because the whistle is used in aquatic facilities for a variety of reasons (communications, rule enforcement, emergencies) often there is misuse and miscommunication surrounding…


Added by Tom Griffiths on January 28, 2013 at 10:12am — 5 Comments

What is Your New Year’s Resolution for Your Aquatic Facility/Program?

Some people say that New Year’s Resolutions aren’t any good.  They don’t work and they won’t last. But I disagree.  For quite some time now I have picked a professional project to initiate as my New Year’s Resolution.

I actually came up with this idea at my very first job as a young adolescent working at a lake in New Jersey. Frank Murray was an apple farmer who could not swim but he ran one heck of a swimming hole that turned into a prototype for today’s water…


Added by Tom Griffiths on January 15, 2013 at 2:30pm — No Comments

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