Emergencies in or around the pool are stressful. Using the right equipment properly can be the difference between a catastrophic situation and a minor incident.
During a water emergency, a lifeguard’s priority must always be his or her own safety. An assessment of the surroundings should be made before entering the water, and the following equipment should be used to keep the rescuer and victim safe.
- Rescue tube – Lifeguards are required to carry a rescue tube when surveying the pool area. The rescue tube strap must be over the guard’s shoulder and neck.
- Backboard – An appropriately sized backboard is crucial anytime a swimmer may have experienced a head, neck, or spinal injury. Backboards should stored close to the pool deck and be large enough to accommodate a wide variety of victims. Head immobilizers should be stored with the backboard at all times.
- Shepherd’s crook – An aluminum or fiberglass reaching pole should be made available to lifeguards. Reaching out to a distressed or frantic swimmer with the crook is much safer than entering the water.
- Ring buoy – A round buoy attached to a line can be used to pull a victim to safety. With lines in excess of 30 feet, a ring buoy is useful in a larger pool or in a brown water situation.
First-Aid & Other Supplies
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – Personal protective equipment must be in close proximity to guards at all times. PPE should include breathing barriers, non-latex disposable gloves, protective eyewear, etc.
- Automatic external defibrillator (AED) – Most states now require health clubs to have at least one AED on site. The AED should be in an accessible and conspicuous location. All employees, including maintenance and part-time staff, must be trained on the use of the device.
- Emergency oxygen – An emergency oxygen unit can provide a victim with much purer air than a rescuer can provide manually. Increased oxygen purity better protects the brain and heart in an emergency. Oxygen units can be obtained without prescription if they contain at least a 15-minute supply of oxygen and deliver a preset flow rate of at least 6 liters per minute. Pools should strongly consider making emergency oxygen available to lifeguards.
Lifeguards need a clear and effective medium to notify staff about potential aquatic emergencies. This is especially important for facilities with a single guard rotation. Guards should have a two-way radio, telephone, or emergency alarm button available to them when on duty. Open communication with the rest of the facility is crucial in the event of an emergency.