When it comes to readiness in the water, a quick response to a drowning patron is fundamental. Once the situation elevates to where the lifeguard must enter the water, risking their own life, everything becomes heightened. The lifeguard response must be quicker, due to the victim’s fatigue, fear, and a greater chance of submersion and drowning. The drowning process must be stopped by any means necessary.
In crisis, police, fire and EMS never work alone. Why should a lifeguard? These drills listed below cover water skills that two-person lifeguard teams should prioritize.
MULTI-RESCUER: 2-ON-1 ACTIVE DRILL: An active victim in the water. The primary lifeguard rescues the victim with a rescue tube. The second lifeguard responds to assist in rescuing the victim, also with a rescue tube.
Objective: Secondary lifeguard must reach victim within 5 seconds after primary lifeguard.
Time limits: Up to 15 seconds for primary lifeguard to rescue victim, no more than 20 for the secondary to be within arm reach of victim.
Secondary lifeguard is staging in the office, break area, or first-aid station. Secondary lifeguards should be allowed to move quickly to assist. The goals of the secondary lifeguard are to be just as fast as primary lifeguard, especially if the victim is within shared zone of coverage and both lifeguards are providing active surveillance of the specific zone the victim is in. The secondary lifeguard should also be able to assist the primary lifeguard if the rescue doesn’t go as planned, or victim becomes passive or submerges. Once the pair is proficient in both roles, incorporate these variations:
• Secondary responds from a nearby tower
• Primary stops midway through the rescue, requiring the secondary to complete the rescue
• Two victims are holding each other, the primary lifeguard makes initial contact, the secondary has a delayed arrival and takes one of the victims from the primary lifeguard
• Two victims are holding each other. Primary and secondary arrive at the same time to make the rescue
• Two victims are actively drowning close to each other, but too far apart for the primary to rescue both. Secondary has a delayed or simultaneous start.
MULTI-RESCUER 2-ON-1 PASSIVE DRILL: An unresponsive victim is passive, face-up on the surface in shallow water. Both lifeguards respond with rescue tubes.
Objective: Lifeguards quickly and safely enter the water and secure the victim onto a rescue tube where the victim’s airway is open and above the surface of the water.
Time limit: Secure victim within 15 seconds.
Repeat the drill until both lifeguards have been the primary and can make the rescue within the time limit. Once the pair is proficient, incorporate these variations:
• Victim is face-down on the surface
• Victim is submerged in shallow water
• Victim is on the surface face-up or face-down in deep water
• Victim is submerged in deep water; the primary lifeguard contacts the victim underwater while the secondary remains on the surface. Primary lifeguard brings the victim to the surface while the secondary places the victim onto the rescue tube and secures the victim
TEAM TOWING/TEAM EXTRICATION DRILL: An unresponsive victim is face-up on the surface in shallow water.
Objective: Both lifeguards secure the victim with one rescue tube and tow victim to the side of the pool.
Time limit: No more than 15 seconds.
Once proficient, incorporate these variations:
• Add a safe entry
• Victim is now in deep water
• Victim is face-down in either shallow or deep water, or is submerged
• Victim needs to be towed to the side and extricated onto the deck quickly and safely
IN-WATER VENTILATIONS DRILL: Unresponsive victim is face-down on the water’s surface. Both guards respond and simulate ventilations.
Objective: Primary lifeguard makes rescue and gets victim in a face-up position. Secondary places rescue tube under victim’s back to open the airway and keep victim above the surface. Primary pulls out resuscitation mask, clears it of water and prepares to give ventilations in the water.
Time limit: Victim should be secured to the rescue tube; resuscitation mask should be out and ready to provide initial ventilations within 15-20 seconds.
Once the pair is proficient in both roles, incorporate these variations:
• Add extrication to the shore or deck
• Have the primary lifeguard simulate in-water ventilations until the secondary has returned with the extrication board and is ready to extricate
• Simulate in-water ventilations while victim is being towed to the side of the pool or shore
NOTE: Do not attempt actual in-water ventilations unless your guards are adequately trained to do so, you have the agency’s blessing to perform them, you have a victim who is willing to receive in-water ventilations, the in-service is strictly supervised, and you know that in-water ventilations are necessary only when there is no quick method of extricating the victim onto the deck or shore.
Remember the secondary lifeguard is a valuable resource that should be used more often. For your next in-service, try to implement more team-based responses to an emergency.