Active Lifeguarding Saves Lives!
By USA Management
We have all seen the cliché of the lifeguard sitting in the stand with dark sunglasses, relaxed, a rescue tube nearby and twirling their whistle. The chances are strong that you may believe that is the job of a lifeguard. Well, the times have changed. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest, unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion will remain in motion. Our understanding of the physiological impact of motion as it relates to water safety and lifeguards has evolved. We believe that lifeguards can help drastically change the drowning statistics using three primary tools.
- Active lifeguarding
- Parents Supervising their children
- Risk management – (Who can/cannot swim)
The overwhelming reality is that nearly 3,600 people unintentionally drown annually in the United States alone. One in five drownings are children under the age of 14. Children between the ages of 1-4 years old are the second leading cause of death. The lifeguard industry must adapt and get Serious On Safety™ (SOS). Research and training enhancements are leading aquatic professionals to embrace a new lifeguarding mantra that is called ”Active Lifeguarding”. What is Active Lifeguarding? A certified swimmer who constantly is in a state of motion enforcing water safety rules and ready to assist patrons that have a need.
A lifeguard’s main responsibility is to enforce water safety rules by encouraging parents to be responsible for their child’s safety. If an incident were to occur around water or at an aquatic facility a lifeguard training is in proving first response to a victim. Parents Supervise – Lifeguards Save Lives! A lifeguards success deeply depends on having a fresh mind and a constant awareness of who can and cannot swim. Children are not the only high risks around water. Many adults are non-swimmers or have poor swimming abilities. Understanding that a lifeguards focus is observing swimmers within their zone requires regular awareness and parental supervision. Historically lifeguards sit in a chair and watch. Now Active Lifeguarding relies on the physical movement of a lifeguard as well as the changing of body position while moving their eyes along every square foot of their zone to maintain focus on each swimmer as well as identifying their highest risk. Each lifeguard should take measured deliberate paces from their station, 20 paces to the left and 20 paces to the right, while scanning their zone. Most importantly a lifeguard must always identify their highest risks and address each risk in a proactive manner. EXAMPLE: If a lifeguard is actively scanning their zone and identifies a non-swimmer without a parent or a guardian providing touch-supervision than that lifeguard would take action by having the identified non-swimmer removed from the water until proper touch-supervision is provided. Lifeguards are NOT “water-sitters”. Active lifeguarding techniques help to keep lifeguards in an alert and ready position allowing them a quicker response time should an incident arise. As the lifeguard actively moves within their station while scanning their zone with full body motion of pacing, counting swimmers, identifying who can swim and locate their highest risk water users breaks up the monotony of a rotation and allows their mind to remain focused on task of enforcing water safety rules. It is imperative for children that cannot swim or are poor swimmers to be properly supervised by their parents at all times! This active approach has drastically reduced the need for lifeguard stands and, in most cases, eliminates the need for one.
Parental supervision and identifying non-swimmers are critical to drowning reduction. As research has shown the majority of drowning victims cannot swim. When patrons enter a swimming facility a lifeguard team cannot assume that patrons will make safe decisions. Furthermore, lifeguards cannot assume that everyone can swim. Due to the aforementioned facts and statistics, it is recommended that all children under 14 years old must be tested to identify their swimming skills. After each child is tested for their swimming skills then each child should be “tagged” and recorded. A red or yellow armband tag usually denotes non-swimmers and therefore must have proper parental or guardian supervision. A green armband tag usually denotes unrestricted swimming and then should be within their parents or guardians site and swim with a buddy (the buddy system). This mandatory screening allows the lifeguard staff to manage the water responsibly by enforcing touch-supervision for non-swimmers. Equally important to incident response is incident prevention. This process of screening and identifying risk empowers lifeguards to be more effective in doing their duty.
These techniques allow lifeguards to make overall risk management decisions on how to safely protect swimmers and non-swimmers in and around water. Facility operators when equipped with these basic principles will be able to structure various areas to allow everyone to enjoy water safely. In order to assist facilities and promote water safety awareness in communities signage and literature should be visual posted and engaging to help explain these important methods. To help promote water safety awareness aquatic facilities should have proper signage and literature to help explain the importance of these methods. Educating children and making parents aware of the dangers in and around water will help empower your lifeguard staff. Watch Around Water™ (WAW) is a good resource to use in helping raise awareness for the safety of children in and around water. Understanding that the solution to attacking the drowning statistics starts with awareness and compelling parents to be accountable for their children, especially around water. The old adage that “Safety starts at home” is very true. The undeniable solution for risk management is to test all children under 14, properly identify swimmer and non-swimmer, label them properly to allow for easy identification, mandate parental supervision by enforcing touch-supervision, support the buddy system (no swimming alone), and finally implement Active Lifeguarding practices for your lifeguards/first responders to manage swim zones in an alert, focused, motion driven, actively engaging water scanning routine.