Lifeguard focuses on pulling a passive victim from the bottom of the pool. (Photo credit: Pete DeQuincy, Mills College)
Some lifeguards believe that their ability to successfully rescue defines their identity as a lifeguard. We must understand the components of the rescue: entry, approach, and rescue. Rescue is broken into three components: contact, securing the victim, and retrieval to safety. And with each component, personal safety and a sense of urgency must be exercised. Lifeguards must be able to perfect the skill of rescuing both active and passive victims. This article focuses only on drills for a passive non-spinal victim in shallow water, mid-depth, and deep water.
Rescuing a passive victim has its challenges. The victim’s body is limp requiring the lifeguard to physically manage and secure the victim onto the rescue tube; the victim’s size, whether small child or large adult, changes the effort needed to make the rescue dramatically. Training on passive victims is at times overlooked due to active rescues offering a little more immediate excitement. Still, passive victim rescue training should be done, and shallow water is a great starting point.
Shallow water (3-5ft depth) provides an optimum environment for rescuers to build their proficiency before moving to mid-depth (5-9ft depth) and deep water (9 foot plus). Shallow water provides a certain level of comfort and certainty. This depth allows the rescuer full access to the victim: left, right, front, back, top, and bottom. If the victim is floating on the surface, the rescuer can maneuver around the victim with relative ease. Shallow water also provides the rescuer easy access to air, allowing the rescuer to focus on developing rescue techniques without having to tread water and breathe. If the victim is submerged, shallow water provides a short distance to surface for air. And if something goes awry, both rescuer and victim can stop the drill and stand up.
Shallow water allows the rescuer to focus on making contact and securing the victim to the rescue tube. The rescuer should be able to make safe and effective contact with the victim in these positions: floating on the surface, face-up or face-down, facing away or towards the rescuer, and submerged facing away or towards the rescuer. Securing the victim means the victim is placed on the rescue tube face up, with their airway open, and the victim is in a stable position on the rescue tube. Stability is demonstrated by the rescuer being able to release their hands from the victim and tube and the victim staying on the tube.
Why hands free? If the victim requires airway management before being removed from the water, the rescuer should be able to reach for their fanny pack, be able to remove their pocket mask and use it on the victim. Remember, for a passive victim in the water, securing the airway is the priority; determining the victim’s level of consciousness follows. Passive conscious victim: monitor airway. Passive unconscious victim: Secure their airway, extricate if possible, and provide care.
Even in shallow water there will be times where the rescuer will not have the rescue tube under their arms.
PASSIVE VICTIM RESCUE, SHALLOW WATER DRILL: Have the victim 10 feet from the edge, face-up on the surface, facing away from the rescuer. The depth of the water should be between 3½ to 4½ feet deep. Rescuers should have a least one hand on the edge with the rescue tube strap on. OBJECTIVE: Rescuers need to reach the victim and secure them onto the rescue tube. Once the victim is secured, rescuers place their arms in the air, thus hands free. TIMING GOAL: 5 seconds to complete the objective. Here is the video link:
Once proficient, incorporate these variations:
With any rescue, getting to the victim quickly is imperative.
PASSIVE VICTIM RESCUE, MID-DEPTH/DEEP WATER DRILL: Have the victim 10 feet from the edge, face-up on the surface, facing away from the rescuer. Mid-depth water should be 5-7 feet deep and deep water will be 8-12 feet. Rescuers will start on the deck with the rescue tube strap on. OBJECTIVE: Rescuers need to enter the water safely to reach the victim and secure them onto the rescue tube. Once the victim is secured, rescuers place their arms in the air, thus hands free. TIMING GOAL: 5 seconds to complete the objective. Here is the video link for mid-depth drills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=walMRpHoRZ4&list=PLmuuhapccrBeY...
Once the rescuer makes contact with the victim, if possible, push off the bottom to expedite bring the victim to the surface.
Submerged victims will be at least 1-3 foot underwater in a vertical position; fully submerged victims will be horizontal on the bottom of the pool. NOTE: if either the rescuer or victim is struggling with equalizing pressure while underwater, avoid the submerged drills. Once proficient, incorporate these variations:
The difficulty of mid-depth and deep water drills will be the rescuer’s inability to stand, requiring the rescuer to either tread water or swim while securing the victim.
Here is the video link for deep water drills:
Rescue tube placement on the back of the victim might vary depending on the victim’s body type and muscle mass. Avoid having the victim slide off the rescue tube or drift into a vertical position. Entanglement with the rescue tube tow line is a possibility, so encourage lifeguards to be cognizant if they get separated from their rescue tube.
With any of these drills, it will take time and practice to become proficient. Have patience, have fun and keep training.