Z ero-depth entry pools allow patrons to enter the water without steps or a ladder. Because the depth gradually increases, this is a prime location where small children require assistance.
It’s essential that lifeguards assigned to this zone react quickly. Depending on the depth, the guard might have to run in shallow water, or run and then swim to the victim. When conducting a drill, the zone of coverage should be large enough for the guard to run a distance before making contact with the victim.
Disclaimer: All drills mentioned emphasize lifeguard safety. At no time will the lifeguard dive into shallow water unless trained by your agency and authorized to do so.
Watch a video of the drill:
Run-and-swim entry drill: (6-10 lifeguards) The trainer will be in water at least 2½ feet deep, facing the shore. Use 3-inch rubber balls for this drill.
Objective: While wearing the rescue tube, the guard must reach the ball as quickly as possible.
Timing goal: 10 seconds to make contact with the ball. The trainer should place the ball at various depths and distances from the guard. Once the ball is retrieved, it is passed to the trainer.
Expedite the flow of this drill by having the trainer start with multiple balls. Multiple trainers also can be utilized.
Once each lifeguard has “rescued” the ball 4-6 times, move to the variations, with extra time provided as indicated.
> Add a second ball. The guard must only touch the first ball, then pick up the second one (no time change).
> Add a second ball. The guard must pick up both balls (no time change).
> After retrieval, both balls need to be returned to shore (5-10 seconds).
> Add a diving manikin. The guard touches the ball, then pulls the manikin to the surface so its face is showing (5-10 seconds).
> Add a rescue tube (no time change).
Balls and manikin can be placed together or apart, in distance and depth. This forces the guard to determine the fastest rescue route.
Two-rescuer manikin retrieval: Place a manikin in 2-3 feet of water. Teams will consist of two lifeguards who work together to retrieve it. Both guards must have contact with the manikin until it is placed in a designated area. Guards should place, not throw, the manikin.
Objective: Retrieve the manikin as quickly and safely as possible and place it in the designated area.
Timing goal: 15-20 seconds.
After completing the objective, have the team place the manikin back in the water. Once the teams become proficient, move to the variations, with extra time provided as indicated.
> Add a second manikin (15-20 seconds).
> Add a third manikin (20-30 seconds).
> Keep using two or three manikins; add that lifeguards must return to starting location together (20 more seconds).
> Team is split, and start from different locations at the same time (no time change).
> Team is split, and start from different locations with a 5 second staggered start (no time change).
> Add a rescue tube (no time change).
> Manikins are staggered in depth, shallow to deep (10-15 seconds).
Beach drag drill: Lifeguards will be in teams of three. Victim will be in 2-3 feet of water at a designated point. Guards will be on shore, rescue the victim and do a beach drag to bring the victim onto shore. Once on shore, one of the guards will become a victim and go out to the designated point. Guards go out and retrieve this new victim with a beach drag. Drill ends when all rescuers rotate through the victim roll.
Objective: Bring the victim to shore using a beach drag as quickly and safely as possible.
Timing goal: 40-60 seconds to complete the drill, with all members of the team taking turns at being the victim.
Once proficient, try these variations, with extra time provided as indicated.
> Each rescuer must be the victim twice (up to 40 seconds).
> Last victim brought in must be given a primary assessment, and determined to have a pulse and is breathing (15 seconds).
> Last victim brought in must be given a primary assessment — victim is determined to have a pulse but is not breathing. Rescuers must provide adult rescue breathing for 3 breaths (30 seconds).
Five-minute run-and-swim entry drill: Designate a finish line between 2½ to 3½ feet deep. Lifeguards will start at the water’s edge.
Objective: Complete as many run-and-swim entries as possible to the designated finish line within 5 minutes.
Lifeguards must return to the starting line as quickly as possible. This is an endurance drill that conditions the staff to run through water. If needed, guards may swim across the finish line. It is surprising how demanding this drill is and how quickly fatigue will begin. If needed, reduce time and build up to 5 minutes. Variations can include:
> Requiring modified front crawl or breaststroke with rescue tube
> Requiring front crawl with rescue tube trailing behind
> No rescue tube
> Add 5 minutes for a total of 10 minutes, doing two variations (no break).
Surf balls: (6-10 lifeguards) This fun activity is a form of musical chairs. Line up 10 guards at the water’s edge, facing away from the water. Place nine tennis balls in the water at various distances. On your command, the guards turn and rush to retrieve a ball. Whoever doesn’t get one is eliminated from the next round. One ball and one guard are reduced from each round until there is only one ball and two lifeguards vying for it. Whoever gets the last ball is the winner. Variations include:
> All lifeguards must take a rescue tube
> Victims substitute for balls and must be rescued
Be aware that this drill quickly turns into many lifeguards watching while the remaining ones compete. Therefore, only initiate this drill occasionally.
is an aquatic supervisor for the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland, Calif. He is president of the Bay Area Public Pool Operators Association and the Aquatic Section of the California Parks & Recreation Society. DeQuincy is a lifeguard instructor for the American Red Cross and the United States Lifesaving Association.