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 this simple piece of equipment.
“Did the Life Guard blow the whistle to initiate the EAP?”
“How many blasts did the Lifeguard blow?”
“Did the staff and patrons hear the whistle?”
“Did the staff and patrons understand the meaning of the blast(s)?”
These are just a few of the questions that arise after an EAP is activated at a facility. My suggestion is that we look for a louder and more effective alternative to the whistle that is used for emergency situations only.
A panic button with loud alarm has been used effectively in many water parks and larger facilities around the world. Simple Air Horns have also been used effectively. Bull Horns with a screeching alarm mode can also be used. And while these new, louder, and more effective alarms for aquatic emergencies may not be able to be placed at every single lifeguard station, I can tell you through personal experience when more effective sounds are used, the Emergency Response is often quicker and more effective. Whistles will still be required at aquatic facilities for daily communications, but when it comes to real water emergencies, we can do it better!