You know .... that Bay Watch thingie! On beaches it was the rescue can and more commonly in pools, the rescue tube.
So what's the deal? Why are rescue aids so controversial? Why do many aquatic facilities make it mandatory for the guards to carry them?
These devices actually seriously reduce how often a guard needs to enter the water for a rescue. What about kick boards? Lifejackets? Pool noodles?
For pools, the tube is more practical as it serves as a reaching aid, throwing aid, and a towing aid - and very importantly, it's soft. On beaches, any Lifeguard who initiates a rescue without a rescue can, is endangering themselves.
If feedback from Lifeguards in the US is correct, it seems that for pools anyway, they have abandoned all aidless rescues in their training. For me that seems like abandoning hand to hand combat for soldiers and police since they have weapons. Weapons get lost and sometimes fail.
Don't get me wrong. I am a strong proponent of Lifeguards carrying rescue aids. And when the rescue aids fail, Lifeguards need to be able to perform the rescue without the use of an aid. (I once told a manager that Lifeguards should be able to do their job naked; it was of course a euphemism. So at least a bathing suit.)
This brings us back to the ladder approach to rescues. Talk, reach, throw, GO! (We'll skip row for the pools)
So.... you're at a pool guarding, someone needs your immediate assistance.
Well, in three out of the four options, a rescue tube would be useful and keep me out of the water. And now that I think about it, I'd use the tube on the water rescue as well. I'm sold.
And, we should continue to train in contact aidless rescues. Just in case.
My theory on the demise of the kick board is that the companies making them didn't want the liability associated with their product being used as a rescue aid. Kick boards don't support larger victims, and are useless at outdoor pools on a windy day. Pool noodles are just a toy, though not useless. Lifejacket aren't the worst choice, but they don't throw well unless wet, and they don't give you a lot of reach compared to a tube.
Having said that, sometimes the best aid is the one you have at the moment - and works!
If we Lifeguards are going to use an aid, it may as well be designed for that purpose and look professional.