For years now I have been blessed with the good fortune of being able to speak to and train with aquatic professionals all over our country. It is these opportunities and the chance they give to us speak with other professionals, compare notes and share gripes about the industry that helps form us as professionals and helps us develop ideas that may help improve our industry. In the mid 90's I was really focused on "Back to Basic" skill building and teaching young people principles of peer supervision as a technique to improve safety and try to deal with the "trial by fire nature" of putting teen age youth in critical patron supervision positions while hoping they have the tools and abilities to respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively. Soon I became focused on taking principles learned in the early 80's working as a beach lifeguard and trying to apply them to pools, in the late 90's my focus became layering aquatic protection and using active lifeguard supervision as a means to ensure everyone did their job and if they didn't there was no lack of experienced lifeguards and managers around to fill any gaps in there performance. The advent of the 10/20 second protection standard by Ellis and Associates gave us a great target for recognizing victims in distress and reaching them in a timely manner. A few years ago after looking closer at that standard I realized it was a good tool for targeting optimal scanning times and setting zones of protection that were of a safe size and protectable. Still there seemed to be a gap between seeing a victim and getting to them, and then actually getting them out of the water in order to provide emergency care.
At the 2008 California Aquatic Management School in Lake Arrowhead, California, Total Aquatic management introduced in a presentation the "1-2 Response and Care Objective". It was simple concept based solely on personal conversations with industry experts like Judith Sperling, Dr. John Hunsucker, Dr. Tom Griffiths, Shawn DeRosa and others. The idea is basic really; in an aquatic emergency response we do not have the typical 4 minute time line for biological death to occur that is talked about in 1st aid and CPR classes. In aquatic response situations where the victim is unresponsive I truly believe "two minutes is the new 4 minutes". That being said it only makes sense that our objective for lifeguard response and care should be developed around this two minute "dead line".
The 1-2 Response and Care Objective was developed to try and help operators understand how precious time is and how staff must be trained to act quickly and effectively. The idea is simple: a lifeguard has one minute to see a victim, get to a victim and get the victim out of the water, and within two minutes the lifeguard team should have the victim's initial assessment completed, have personal protective equipment in place and be giving advanced care that may be necessary, BVM, Oxygen, AED. This is completely obtainable, but it takes work and committment.
Meeting this standard will require re-evaluating how we train. It will require timing response scenarios in every area of the facility. It may require different placement of backboards for extricating and crash bags for the non-breathing victim. It may require more equipment so that it may be placed effectively around the facility. One thing is for sure it will require training, training and more training and the training will have to be performance based (a concept TAM introduced years ago). If you really want to get serious about creating a major reduction in annual drowning statistics for at lifeguarded pools, then I urge you to train to the basics first, layer your aquatic protection, follow the principles of active lifeguard supervision and use performance based training techniques that focus on a 1-2 Response and Care Objective.