Are Lifeguards First Responders?
Answer: Yes, lifeguards are first responders, because they are already at the scene of an accident/incident.
Lifeguards are not always expected to see all accidents/incidents that happen at an aquatic facility, but they are expected to respond accordingly and responsibly when an accident/incident is brought to their attention. That is what their training is for, to assist and provide “first responder” help.
Yes it would be nice for lifeguards at aquatic facilities to physically see all incidents that happen at a pool or recreation facility, but let’s be honest, that just doesn’t happen. Lifeguards are expected to be trained in basic lifesaving skills as well as CPR and first aid. This training is taught so that young men and woman that enter into the “water safety” business are prepared to respond and assist patrons and swimmers in a time of need at an aquatic facility.
A non-guarded swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 4 and under.
Lifeguards are also present to help enforce rules and safety at an aquatic facility. Without lifeguards present at an aquatic facility there is disorderliness, lack of organization, disarrangement and no structure. Young swimmers (typically, ones that visit swimming facilities the most) are free to use their own judgement to determine what is safe and not safe at a pool facility. This usually can lead to a lot of unforeseen issues and risks.
Here are some startling facts on drowning!
Child drowning is a silent death. There’s no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
58 percent of parents do not consider drowning a threat to their children. (Resource ISR)
Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in children aged 1-14 years (CDC)
The majority of children who survive (92% percent) are discovered within two minutes following submersion. (Branche 1999)
Rates of fatal drowning for minorities are notably higher among these populations in certain age groups. The fatal drowning rate of African American children is 20% higher than that of Caucasian children in the same age range. (CDC)
19 percent of drowning deaths involving children occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present.
Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are males.
Drowning can happen quickly and quietly anywhere there is water and even in the presence of lifeguards.
Many adults and children report that they can’t swim. Research has shown that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years.
U.S. Coast Guard life jackets reduce drowning among non- swimmers significantly. Drowning happens with 88% of victims not wearing life jackets.
For persons with seizure disorders, drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death.
Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation.
The importance of lifeguards providing patron surveillance, especially monitoring the behavior of swimmers, can be demonstrated with a brief description of how persons drown. Many people assume that drowning persons are easy to identify because they will exhibit obvious signs of distress in the water, such as yelling or waving their arms. However, this kind of behavior is not common. Instead, people tend to drown in more quiet, less attention-getting ways. Drowning persons usually struggle to keep their mouth above the surface of the water in order to breathe. Struggling to stay afloat and possibly suffocating, they are rarely able to call out or wave their arms. Observational studies of persons at flat water (non-surf) beaches have revealed that non-swimming adults who find themselves in water over their heads are generally able to struggle on the surface of the water for about 60 seconds, while infants and very small children can submerge in as little as 20 seconds.
However, facility owners and managers at aquatic facilities sometimes make the mistake of assigning lifeguards unrelated duties to perform while also expecting them to conduct effective patron surveillance. Because drowning can occur quickly and quietly, it is not surprising that lifeguards, distracted from keeping an eye on the water by other assigned duties, have failed to spot drowning persons in time to rescue them. Indeed, unobserved drownings have occurred even while lifeguards were stationed 20 feet from the incident. It is clear, therefore, that swimming facilities must be staffed adequately to ensure effective and continuous patron surveillance, and that lifeguards should be given no other task that would distract them from this work.
Look for these signs of drowning when persons are in the water at Aquatic Facility:
Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
Hair over forehead or eyes
Not using legs vertical
Hyperventilating or gasping
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
Trying to roll over on the back
Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder
“Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless assisted or rescued by a “buddy swimmer”, bystander swimmer or a lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”
Tips to help you stay safe in water at your Aquatic Facility!
Supervise When in or Around Water. Designate a responsible adult to watch children while swimming or playing in or around water. Supervision of preschool children should provide “touch supervision”, be close enough to reach the child at all times and provide a coast guard approved life jacket. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing games, socializing, drinking alcohol, talking/texting on the phone and sun bathing) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.
Use the Buddy System. Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.
Seizure Disorder Safety. If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water. Consider wearing coast guard approved life jackets when around water.
Learn to Swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water.
Learn Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.
Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown.
Parents should be their child’s “lifeguard”. Nobody’s going to watch your child as well as you are and when you send your child to the pool with friends, babysitters, aunts, uncles, they’re not watching their child like you would.
Children of all ages and experience levels should be with a parent if possible. Parents know their own children’s limits and how long they are capable of being in the water and underwater.