It’s winter. Summer is seven months away and is not even a thought in your staff’s mind. As a supervisor or manager, you’re probably busy developing programs and finalizing summer brochures. Soon you will start recruiting new seasonal staff, so preparing for summer starts now.
Analyze the rescue and assist data from the previous season. You should know how many rescues were made, where they were made within your facility, which day of the week they occurred on, and the time they took place. You should also know which lifeguards made the rescues. All of this data is important.
Imagine each rescue as an attempt to compromise your facility’s drowning prevention plan. Take the rescue data and place it on an aerial map/photo of your facility. The map should include guard chairs, roaming patrols and zones. It can help you to determine whether the rescues are random or if there is a pattern which illuminates holes within your operation. Do rescues cluster near the diving board, at the bottom of a speed slide, or within the swim lesson area? What time of day did the rescue occur, what day of the week?
If the weak point in your operation is something that can be resolved through mechanical changes (buying an elevated chair, or having better signage on child supervision) then make those changes.
Look at the facility’s rescue hotspots and compare them to where lifeguard stands are placed and where roaming patrols are assigned. You need to know if these staffed locations really work and allow for a quick enough response.
The time from victim recognition to victim contact should be less than 30 seconds. If longer, adjust your stations and zones. It is important to remember, that the rescue could potentially be only one part of the incident; extrication from the water and medical treatment (which could include rescue breathing, CPR, and using an AED) will be part of all critical incidents.
Once you’ve charted the rescue data on the map and made adjustments to zoning and stations it is time to build training to support your operations. The remainder of this article will discuss three drills to strengthen your lifeguard’s response in speed, support and teamwork.
Pool Diagram with common rescue points labeled 1, 2, and 3. Lifeguard stations are labeled A, B, and C. (Graphics credit: Eric Nurse)
Important note: On all of the drills, you will count out loud to establish the cadence and speed that the individual/team will need to work. Using a stopwatch is unforgiving. Verbal counting allows you to change the tempo, make corrections as needed, and enhances your presence with the staff as the conditions dictate. Speed up your count cadence as you near the end of a drill to build urgency, slow it down if staff experience unanticipated difficulties.
SPEED RESCUE DRILL: Referring to the sample map place a passive victim on the surface head up (real person preferred) at Rescue Point 1, and have lifeguards deploy from Lifeguard Station A. OBJECTIVE: Make contact with the victim as quickly and safely as possible. TIMING GOAL: 10-15 seconds to complete the objective.
Go through the drill at least 3 times. Once you are satisfied with their progress, move the victim to Rescue Point 2. Repeat the drill with deployment continuing from Lifeguard Station A.
Lifeguards should be proficient at the Speed Rescue before moving to the variations. If you notice the staff not making contact with the victim quick enough, remind the staff of the objective. It doesn’t matter how they get to the victim, deck or water, just get there quickly and safely.
Speed Rescue Variations:
MULTI-LIFEGUARD 2-ON-1 DRILL: Split the lifeguards between two Lifeguard Stations. Place an active victim at Rescue Point 2. OBJECTIVE: Both lifeguards make contact and have control of the victim as quickly and safely as possible. TIMING GOAL: 15-20 seconds to complete the objective.
Lifeguards should be proficient at the Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-1 before moving to the variations.
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-1 Variations:
MULTI-LIFEGUARD 2-ON-2 DRILL: Have lifeguards at Station B and Station C. Place two active victims at Rescue Point 3. OBJECTIVE: Make contact and have control of the victims as quickly and safely as possible. TIMING GOAL: 10-15 seconds to complete the objective.
Lifeguards should be proficient at Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 before moving to the variations.
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 Variations:
Remember your staff should be slightly out of breath throughout these drills. If they aren’t raising their heart rate, they won’t be prepared when critical incidents occur.
Fortifying Your Facility 1-Hour Training Curriculum (10 lifeguards)
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 drills allow lifeguards to either
work together or independently in an aquatic incident.
Pete DeQuincy is an Aquatic Supervisor for the East Bay Regional Park District, Oakland California, and trains lifeguards internationally and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a Lifeguard Instructor Trainer and Water Safety Instructor Trainer for the American Red Cross and recently served on the National American Red Cross Sounding Board to develop the new lifeguarding curriculum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.