Scan Bottom to Top

Drowning victims don’t always splash on the surface of the water.

Lifeguards know that distressed swimmers don’t often resemble what we see on TV or in the movies. Most of these portrayals show a swimmer flailing, splashing, and yelling loudly… if only it was that easy! Swimmers can slip beneath the surface of the water almost instantly, and they often don’t make a sound. The only way to ensure that all swimmers are safe is to actively scan the bottom of the pool every 10 seconds.

This Lifeguard Commandment video about proper lifeguard scanning techniques has a fun interactive gamethat demonstrates at least one bad way to scan.

Counting Swimmers Does NOT Work

Trying to count swimmers is not only extremely difficult, it can also be exhausting. Now would be a good time to watch the video above if you haven’t already done so. The video begins with an activity that demonstrates just how difficult – and potentially dangerous – counting swimmers can be.

Counting swimmers is dangerous because a lifeguard never knows when a new swimmer will enter or exit their zone of coverage. As the video above demonstrates, a guard’s swimmer count can get mixed up very quickly.

Scanning the Bottom of the Pool Can Be Difficult

We feel strongly that the best way to spot a distressed swimmer quickly is to scan the bottom of the pool first, and then work up to the surface of the water. Unfortunately, scanning the bottom of the pool can be difficult, so lifeguards need to be prepared to make quick adjustments while on duty.

Here are a few reasons scanning the bottom of the pool might be prove to be difficult.

  • Glare: Most lifeguards, especially those that spend the majority of their time outdoors, have experienced surveillance problems due to glare. Read more about how lifeguards can mitigate the effects of glare while on duty.
  • Wind: Even a slight breeze can cause ripples on the surface of the water. This rippling action may not seem like a problem, but as the photos of the disappearing dummy demonstrate, even a little water disturbance can be a big problem.
  • Cloudy Water: Cloudy water is quite possibly the single greatest hurdle for a lifeguard. If you can’t see the bottom of the pool, how can you be expected to spot a swimmer in distress? Learn more about preventing cloudy pool water and what to do if the water at your pool gets to be too murky.
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