In May 2012, lifeguards with the city of San Marcos’ California Community Services rescued a 10-year-old girl who was happily playing with friends in only 4 feet of water at one moment and did not resurface the next. Due to the quick actions of the lifeguards and the advanced life support efforts of Fire Department paramedics, the swimmer was home in time for dinner. This nearly tragic event had the best possible outcome and, at the same time, reinforced the importance for all city departments to work together when it comes to delivering services and promoting safety.
Since this incident, the city’s Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Division and Community Services Aquatics Division collaborated on a Poolside CPR program in 2013. The idea was to promote the new hands-only CPR programs endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. Lifeguards and firefighters demonstrated and led guided practice sessions of the hands-only technique to pool visitors throughout the swim season.
Of course, oxygen and ventilations during CPR may be essential elements in hypoxic and near drowning events, but trained professionals are rarely the first at an incident scene. The goal of the project is to remove barriers to act, and inform, educate, prepare and empower participants to save lives when otherwise they would not take steps to act in the event of a life or death emergency.
Poolside CPR kicked off at the Underwater Egg-stravaganza, the opening event for the city of San Marcos’ swim season. Firefighters and lifeguards were able to interact with all members of the families who participated in the day’s water safety events. The program continued throughout the summer with 12 total dates at the city’s two aquatic facilities, where firefighters and lifeguards demonstrated hands-only CPR and individuals practiced the technique. When fall began, the Aquatics and Fire CPR partnership moved off the pool deck to various special events throughout the off-season, such as the Fire Department Open House, Youth Sports Expo and the Countywide Sidewalk CPR event.
The safety outreach program creates a great opportunity for firefighters and lifeguards to work together outside of emergency situations. Throughout the project, both departments have the chance to become more familiar with each other’s needs and strengths, learning how to help each other and, in turn, better serve the city of San Marcos.
This collaborative approach between Fire and Community Services has already produced results that will benefit both departments within the city. The Fire Department is able to quickly refill the Aquatics Division’s oxygen bottles, saving city dollars and staff time, as well as maximizing access to the one miracle drug that can be given to a drowning victim — air. Fire Department volunteers also ensure that pool AED units are operational and ready for use in the event of an emergency. Additionally, the Aquatics Division will be able to enhance the Fire Department’s drowning prevention safety program, “Children Drown without a Sound,” during the summer swim season at the pool.
Because drowning is still a leading cause of unintentional death in many age groups, the ultimate benefit will be safer San Marcos residents in, on and around the water, as well as safer responses in the event of any emergency, poolside or elsewhere.