It’s winter and 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.
One important component of that preparation is to analyze the rescue and assist data from the previous season. You should be aware of how many rescues were made and where in your facility, as well as which day of the week and time.
You also need to know which lifeguards made the rescues. All this data is important.
To learn more, take the rescue data and place it on an aerial map or photo of your facility. The map should include guard chairs, roaming patrols and zones. It can help you determine whether the rescues are random or if there’s a pattern that illuminates holes within your operation. Do rescues cluster near the diving board? At the bottom of a speed slide? Within the swim lesson area? Which day of the week and at what time did the rescue occur?
If a weak point in your operation is something that can be resolved through mechanical changes — such as buying an elevated chair or having better signage on child supervision — then make those changes.
Look at the facility’s rescue hot spots and compare them with the placement of lifeguard stands and where roaming patrols are assigned. You need to know if these staffed locations work and allow a fast enough response.
The time from victim recognition to contact should be less than 30 seconds. If longer, adjust your stations and zones. It’s important to remember that the rescue could potentially be only one part of the incident; extrication from the water and medical treatment are part of all critical incidents.
Once you’ve charted the rescue data on the map and made adjustments to zoning and stations, it’s time to build training to support your operations. The rest of this column will discuss three drills to strengthen lifeguards’ response in speed, support and teamwork.
It's important to note that on all the drills, you will count out loud to establish the cadence and speed that the individual and/or team will need to work. Using a stopwatch is unforgiving. Verbal counting lets you change the tempo, make corrections as needed, and enhances your presence with the staff as the conditions dictate. Speed up your count cadence near the end of a drill to build urgency; slow it down if the staff experiences unanticipated difficulties.
Speed Rescue Drill
Referring to your facility map, place a passive victim on the surface head up (real person preferred) at a spot you've determined as Rescue Point 1, and have guards deploy from Lifeguard Station A.
Objective: Make contact with the victim as quickly and safely as possible.
Timing goal: Complete the objective in 10-15 seconds.
Do the drill at least three times. Once you’re satisfied with the guards’ progress, move the victim to Rescue Point 2. Repeat the drill, again deploying from Lifeguard Station A.
Guards should be proficient at the Speed Rescue before moving to the variations. If they’re not making contact with the victim quickly enough, remind them of the objective. It doesn’t matter how they get to the victim, by deck or water, just get there fast and safely.
Speed Rescue Variations
Once you’ve gone through all the rescue points, move to a new lifeguard station and repeat the drill.
- Active victim submerged (underwater, with fingertips not breaking the surface)
- Passive victim on surface face down
- Passive victim submerged (add 5-10 seconds to complete this variation)
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-1 Drill
Split the guards between two lifeguard stations, with an active victim at Rescue Point 2.
Objective: Both guards make contact and have control of the victim as quickly and safely as possible.
Timing goal: Complete objective in 15-20 seconds.
Guards should be proficient at the Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-1 before moving to variations.
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-1 Variations
Move victim and guards to different rescue points and lifeguard stations
- Victim is active until second guard arrives and assists in securing victim (add 5 seconds)
- Passive victim on surface face down. Drill ends when victim is secured and moved to side of pool (add 10 seconds)
- Passive victim on surface face down. Drill ends with victim secured with airway management in progress where victim was located (add 10 seconds)
- Passive victim submerged (add 5-10 seconds)
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 Drill
Have guards at Stations B and C. Put two active victims at Rescue Point 3.
Objective: Make contact and have control of the victims as quickly and safely as possible.
Timing goal: Complete objective in 10-15 seconds.
Guards should be proficient at Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 before moving to variations.
Multi-Lifeguard 2-on-2 Variations
Move victims and guards to different rescue points and lifeguard stations
- Victims hold on to each other until second guard arrives and assists in separating and securing them (add 10 seconds)
- One active and one passive victim. Drill ends when victims are secured and moved to side of pool (add 10 seconds)
- One active victim supports one passive victim. Passive victim submerges once first guard makes contact. Drill ends when victims are secured/moved to side of pool (add 10 seconds)
Remember, the lifeguards should be slightly out of breath throughout these drills. If they aren’t raising their heart rates, they won’t be prepared when critical incidents occur.