Over the years, I’ve written about in-service scenarios, large scale drills and what it takes for a drill to be successful. In December 2014, I wrote about one of my favorite drills: The 60-Second Drill. I’m revisiting the topic, this time focusing on an upgrade of that drill and several of its variations.

Call it the 60-Second Drill 2.0.

It’s ideal for an in-service where 12 to 40 lifeguards are available for training. It focuses on a 60-second slice of recreational swim.

The objective: Identify the victim, make the rescue, extricate the victim to the side of the pool or onto the deck, and begin providing the appropriate care within 60 seconds.

The rescue team will consist of two to six lifeguards, possibly more depending on the size of the facility and whether the facility has multiple pools. The rescue team can include the lifeguards on break and a pool manager. However, lifeguards must be guarding in normal assigned positions at the start of the drill. For instance: lifeguard in the stand, lifeguard in the roving position, lifeguard in the break room, and manager on deck or office.

Once the counting begins, lifeguards can modify their position to better guard the patrons depending on the scenario. The urge to add lifeguards and rescue equipment during the drill should be discouraged.

To keep this drill moving quickly and provide multiple evolutions, the victim will be a passive and unconscious either on the surface of the water or submerged. The victim will have a pulse, will not be breathing, have no severe bleeding, no spinal injury, and not require CPR.

Everyone else that is not part of the immediate rescue team is a patron for the scenario. Important note: This drill only works if you have a lifeguard playing the role of patron convincingly. Here are some tips:

  • Act like a normal patron during recreation swim
  • Obey most if not all of the pool rules
  • Comply when a lifeguard enforces the rules
  • Do not become a distraction like a frantic parent once the victim is pulled from the water
  • Do not become a nuisance like a typical child visiting the pool and heckling the lifeguard
  • Follow the guidance and directions of the trainer
  • If the patron chooses to break a rule and the lifeguard calls on them, the patron cannot repeat the offense

Why are the rules necessary? This drill is not about the patrons’ bad behavior. This drill focuses on the rescue team’s ability to communicate effectively with both their teammates and the patrons. It tests the team’s ability to work effectively and quickly together during daily routines and during a crisis. Lastly, it assesses their ability to manage the space and the patrons in and around the pool before, during, and after the Emergency Action Plan is implemented.

The drill set-up: While the rescue team meets separately to strategize who is going to be in which positions, the trainer will explain the scenario to the patrons. The trainer will pick a patron to be the victim. The patron will be assigned an activation number indicating when it is his or her turn to transform into a passive victim. The activation number should be within the number range of 15 to 35 seconds, allowing the rescue team to complete the objectives within the 60 second timeframe. Catalyst numbers are assigned to move the group to different section of the pool or change the behavior/activity of the group or subgroups depending on the scenario. Here is an example of the trainer talking to the patrons:

Trainer: “This scenario will use ‘conga line’ variation. All patrons will start by being spread throughout the pool doing normal recreational activities. When I reach 10 seconds (that’s the catalyst number), Patron Z will shout out, ‘conga line!’ The group will move to the shallow area and begin to form a conga line and move throughout the pool. Patron X will go passive when I reach 27 seconds (that’s the activation number) and the conga line will continue moving as if nothing is awry.”

60-Second Drill: Conga Line

Once all the patrons are familiar with the scenario, and their role within the scenario, the trainer will have them get into position either in the pool or on the deck. The rescue team then moves into their positions around the pool and facility. The trainer then briefly confirms that both the rescue team and the patrons are ready.

The trainer begins counting, and continues to count until the victim has been extricated and the appropriate care has started or until the 60 seconds has been reached. The only time the trainer will stop counting is if a safety issue arises which needs to be immediately addressed. Feedback to the rescue team and the patrons should be given following the end of the scenario. The total time for this drill should be no more than 4 minutes:

  • 1 minute to explain the scenario to the patrons/ rescuers to strategize
  • 1 minute to position the rescuers and patrons
  • 1 minute for the scenario
  • 1 minute for feedback

Activity variation: This scenario is based off a specific activity. The activity could be splashing, jumping in, or mass breath holding. Some additional sub-variations include the “Sunburst,” and the “Conga Line,” seen top.

Zone variation: Groups of patrons are assigned to different zones of the pool. They will stay in their zone and do the specific activity assigned by the trainer. “Divided Tribe” and “Sleight of Hand” are sub-variations which play off the zone variation and provide an increased challenge.

60-Second Drill: The Zone Variation

Migration variation: The group is assigned to a specific region of the pool. Several catalyst numbers are set to cause the group to migrate from region to region. The migration continues until the Patron X goes passive. Subgroups of patrons can be established to either migrate in a delayed staggered start or a conflicting migration (clockwise vs. counter clockwise). Some additional sub-variations include the “Sardine,” “Whirlpool,” and “Wildebeest” formation.

60-Second Drill: Migration Variation

A couple more pointers

The rescue team should have at least three to four opportunities (12 to 16 minutes) working together either repeating the same scenario until success or transitioning to a different scenario.

With all the variations, some rescue teams will not succeed in a particular scenario. It is important that the rescue team work out the rough patches in their Emergency Action Plans and feel competent in working together.

Good luck, and keep training.