We practice real-life simulation trainings at all of our in-service
sessions. However, our big test came from an actual emergency
— and it showed us how important practice can be.
One day this past summer, while more than 800 guests filled our
aquatic complex, everything came to a halt as an unresponsive
4-year-old boy was pulled out of the water by a lifeguard and a
guest. The air horn sounded, guests froze expecting to see a
training mannequin, lifeguards appeared with emergency equipment,
but this time it was all real.
The guards jumped into action. Fifteen were on duty that day, along
with a lead lifeguard and an assistant pool manager. The responding
lifeguard, along with the lifeguards on break and the assistant
manager, took control of patient care. The lead lifeguard called
“911” and activated the emergency medical system. One
guard was to remain at each of the three pools to ensure guests
would not enter the water; the remaining eight guards were tasked
with clearing the pools and maintaining crowd control during the emergency.
Lifeguards quickly assessed and performed emergency care, providing
CPR and oxygen to the unconscious boy. By the time emergency
medical services arrived, he was conscious, had a pulse and was
breathing. He was released from the hospital two days later.
When the assistant manager stood up, he realized that a crowd
of more than 300 had gathered — including the remaining eight
guards. Some kids were still in the water, completely
Over the years, we had put emphasis on real life simulation
training. However, we focused so much on the emergency —
making the rescue, extrication, patient care, CPR, rescue
breathing, oxygen administration and AED — that we never
emphasized clearing the pool of guests, crowd control and what
guards should do when not directly involved.
After evaluating and discussing our emergency action plan (EAP) and
trainings with lifeguards who were involved in the emergency, it
was determined that we had talked about a complete simulation, but
never put it into practice for them to see and do. Having the
lifeguards see and do every aspect of a simulated emergency is what
gives them the confidence and preparation for the real
Our in-service trainings from that point on included all aspects of
our EAP during real life simulation training. We included how
guests may act and respond to the situation and how lifeguards
should act throughout the entire simulation training, as well as
preparation for how to interact with parents of a small child.
Ultimately, we need to make sure that practice is as close to
reality as possible so that when the real thing happens,