In-Service Training: Empowering Lifeguards to Intervene if a Medical Event is Suspected

As you plan your in-service trainings, we encourage you to incorporate skill-based training into each session. Creating trainings that are realistic and conducted in real-time helps prepare lifeguards to know what to expect—and how they might feel—if an aquatic event were to happen. That’s why, throughout the Not On My Watch series, we’ll incorporate an inservice topic of the week with an example of a scenario you can use to train your staff.

Topic: Empowering Lifeguards to Intervene if a Medical Event is Suspected

When a medical event occurs, it is extremely important that guards are identifying and responding in a timely manner. Therefore, it is important to empower your lifeguards to intervene if a medical event is suspected. Below are a few things to make sure that you educate your guards on:

  • Discuss the signs of a medical event. You can find the different signs we typically see in our incidents in our medical event resource online. In 2019, we also hosted an aquatic facilitated discussion that discussed a medical event. This case study and footage would be a great tool to use with your staff to show them what a medical event looks like.
  • Empower guards to trust their gut and respond even when they are unsure.
  • Remind guards that no one is safe from a medical event. It can happen to any swimmer no matter their age or swimming ability.

As aquatic leaders, make sure that you find ways to positively reinforce guards who intervene in situations. This will help guards to feel supported and confident whenever they are to intervene in any situation.

Below we have created a scenario that you can use with your staff. Please feel free to print this off and use during your in-service training.

Please note: This drill may require prior planning and communication to your members and other teams within your organization. We recommend that this drill be performed during operating hours and we suggest enlisting a member or unrecognizable employee to perform this drill.

Early one morning, during lap swim, an older member is swimming in one of the farthest lanes. Throughout their workout, they are stopping and starting frequently in the middle of the lane as well as at the wall. After some time passes, they reach the wall and seem to stop moving entirely. This is typical behavior for them, but they seem to be lingering at the wall for longer than normal.

  • Time how long it takes the guard to identify the behavior and respond.
  • Once a response is initiated, rehearse a complete rescue scenario.
  • Debrief the experience with the guard. Some sample questions can be found on our website.

* You can also use our sample In-Service Training Framework as you plan your trainings for the summer.