The all important safety step during a deadly pandemic

What do we do now in a first aid situation? Someone needs our help, and we’re too scared to come close fearing infection. The fear is real; people have died from this coronavirus in large numbers. I don’t have a pat answer that will offer a definitive solution.

I do recall listening to a nurse on a TV interview. She was willing to help but made it clear that her safety and well being came first.

We can at the very least contact EMS, if the patient is responsive and lucid we could council them on self help at a distance.

I’m not going to council anyone to place themselves in obvious danger. Do what you can and keep yourself as safe as possible.

Authorities have strongly advised us to just stay home. This lowers our unnecessary risk of getting into trouble in the first place. Stay home, avoid other people, if you need to go out – keep your distance from others. And wash your hands regularly and properly.

Undoubtedly this pandemic will change our approach to first aid in the future. My sincere hope, is that the spirit of helping a fellow human being in need, is not lost.

Stay well and safe everyone!


What’s Important may not always be obvious

Too often at a re-certification for First Aid or Lifeguarding, material is reviewed superficially. We state for example, the importance of the Epi-Pen (auto-injector), or rapid aggressive cooling for burns and heat stroke, but don’t provide a practical exercise. We assume that everyone knows how to use the auto-injector properly; we assume that rapid aggressive cooling is performed very quickly.

What we get with this approach, is upside down auto-injectors, and candidates overthinking how to cool a burn or heat stroke, when they are standing next to the pool or water fountain.

What does this mean for us instructors?

  • Do not assume that the candidates know their stuff
  • The candidate(s) may feel embarrassed to ask questions; make sure questions are welcomed and encouraged
  • If the issue you are emphasising is important, spend some time covering it; pass a training auto-injector around and let everyone practise the skill
    • Get the candidates to look around the pool and spot where the sources or cool water are, and get them to figure out how long it would take to cool the patient with the various methods.

These are only two examples. There are other skills and knowledge areas that can stand a clear review.

And make sure the candidates feel comfortable asking questions and getting help when needed.

Till next time.


The Online Phenomenon

Well we can now take almost any program online. Is this a good thing or not? I’m going to share what works and doesn’t work; and I’m going to focus on First Aid.

First and foremost which market does this appeal to?

– Those that live in remote areas where these courses are far and few between.
– Those that have taken the program before and need to recertify.
– Those that comprehend well on written material.
– Those that are very comfortable using computers or other online devices.

What should you look for when selecting an online First Aid program?

– Look for a nationally recognised provider; there are a few. Red Cross, Lifesaving Society, St John, Heart and Stroke are some that come to mind. Not all of them offer online.
– Make certain, and this is critically important – there MUST be a classroom portion to cover the skills and answer questions.
– The online portion needs to work; the biggest gripe from student is over complicated and buggy web portals. It’s got to work for a 10 year old and a 100 year old.
– Can you exit the program and come back and continue?
– Is there a “forum” feature for questions?
– Can you contact the instructor or anyone if needed, and what is the response time?

Further Tips:
– Once you receive your link to the program, get started right away. You may be surprised how long it actually takes.
If you are taking First Aid for the first time – take a classroom course in its entirety. Online may cause grief when you can’t ask questions and get answers quickly.

Till next time

Lifeguard Lloyd

The Rescue Aid – New or Just Forgotten?

You know …. that Bay Watch thing! 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.)

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.

  1. Can you talk them to the wall?
  2. Can you reach them with your rescue tube?
  3. Can you throw the aid to them?
  4. Do you have go into the water and get them?

Well, in three out of the four options, a rescue tube would be useful. 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.


Keeping First Aid in Perspective

Back in the 1970s First Aid was often taught in a somewhat negative manner. “If you do this or don’t do that, you will kill them!” Many people shied away from helping – not good.

Then we moved to “Doing something is better than nothing!” This philosophy proved problematic as it lead to poor First Aid.

My teaching method today is to encourage people to help and to do the best they can under the circumstances. You are not expected to be perfect, just to do what you can to the best of your ability, training, and conditions.

If you are worried that the cost of an ambulance may be an issue to the patient, remember this: not your problem and the ambulance is cheaper than a funeral.

We need to take something positive from case studies of First Aid gone poorly. It is a basic First Aid tenet to call EMS for all medical emergencies, and remember that the patient is not always going to make rational decisions. The patient may have the right to refuse treatment but they can’t stop us from calling for help. Our job is to recognize the emergency, and provide appropriate care, within our training scope, until EMS arrives.

More on the “Tailgate (Re)Certification”

Back awhile ago I wrote a bit about “questionable” re-certification practices. My concern then and now was the fact that often no (or very little) training took place. Money changes hands and a bit of theory might be covered over beers or coffee.

Not good!

The industry agencies providing the certification is taking notice. It’s the good instructors that are getting the rap on the knuckles with ever increasing policies that make it harder and harder to serve the market.

I’m going to focus on first aid.

A good re-certification should in my humble opinion cover/review all the material with perhaps a little more depth for those who perform first aid at work. There needs to be plenty of practice on all the skills; professional first-aiders would want to take their skills to the next level and perhaps lose some bad habits. Consistency might be a goal as well. Things change in first aid; you need to be on top of this. Scenarios- yes they put it all together; include these!

The challenge is to determine the time-lines.

When you have 12 – 18 candidates, it’s going to take all day for a EFA and certainly a full 16 hours for a SFA. Maybe longer.

We don’t want to create a race to the bottom with our time-lines (faster cheaper, easier) , nor do we want to burn out the student with information overload either. 12 hours of class time is too long. Nine hours with a lunch break is about what the market will bear; most companies want it done in 8 hours for a EFA.

What do we do with the small classes?  Do 6 students take half the time of 12? No, and that is of course a dangerous argument. Lectures/videos take as long as they take no matter how many students you have.

We can however set how many activities, and how much time a student needs to spend on each skill and activity, and how many scenarios each student should participate in.

Why would we expect a student to perform extra and longer activities in small classes and then short change the students in larger classes? Students will complain if the CPR goes on too long – their wrists hurt. Two minutes is the standard for each student; generally you can get them to do more, by spreading it out, but to a limit.

Could the industry look at this? Some clients wish to take private and semi-private classes. These classes are very thorough. There is no “wait for your turn” time.

Setting only the class length as a standard has problems. Let’s set the standard on the individual components for each student that add up to a great training session.

Till next time LP

The slide – From Vigilant to Complacent

Let’s Keep Our Focus!

Often after a major event or a good training session, everyone gets on the bandwagon on proper guarding. “Okay, NO buddy guarding, everyone in the proper positions!” Unfortunately, this only lasts a short time and then complacency sets back in.  As a supervisor this complacency is easy to spot.

  • Guards out of position – placing themselves into positions of convenience rather than sightlines and response time – often close to the staff room or near coworkers where they can chat. Often these positions are on the glare side of the pool creating even more problems.
  • The distractions start to creep in. This could be anything from adjusting the deck radio (with their back to the pool), applying nail polish (REALLY!), to blatant buddy guarding. In extreme cases it may involve the use of their personal phones (YIKES!).
  • Poor rotations. Instead of waiting for the next guard to cover the zone during the rotation, the guards simply move to the next position as soon as they see the next guard approaching. This often leads to loss of coverage during the rotation.
  • Early clean-up before closing so everyone can get out early. Great if someone is guarding exclusively at the time. This is often not the case. This may also annoy the public.
  • Attitudes change from vigilance to a false sense of invincibility. This is the most serious effect as it involves getting people’s thinking back in order.

What can I say? Guard Hard or go Home!


CPR Teaching Tip

Most of my students struggle with the blocked airway sequence with an unconscious patient. They tend to forget to check the mouth after each set of 30 compressions. Getting the student to focus on what they were doing and why they were doing it only helped to a small degree. Then I changed my approach; I told them there was two types of CPR – a patient with an open airway, or a patient with a blocked airway. I asked them, “What would be the difference?” They knew right away. Reduced the learning challenge in a big way.


The Basics of Lifeguarding – use them at an NL Recert

Generally most if not all the recerts I do for NL are for working lifeguards. Often the candidates get so hung up on meeting the “Must Sees” for the situation exercises that they forget to actually apply the fundamentals of lifeguarding that ironically lay in the Must Sees. That is, the guards tend to focus on reaction, and not guarding and scene management.

How does this present itself?

  1. Poor positioning. Often guarding from the “glare side” of the pool.
  2. Simply tracking the other candidates and not guarding their zone and the pool.
  3. Not checking out a guard that appears to be involved with a situation.
  4. Confusing majors and minors.
  5. Focusing on treatment and forgetting the global situation.

The best way to handle situations is to treat them as if they were actually happening for real.

  • Most guards, or at least the good ones, position themselves on the pool deck in the best location(s).
  • Where as we do track the high risk patrons, we still include everyone else.
  • As team players, if we see a guard dealing with a situation, we at the very least monitor it and get involved (help out) if necessary; we do not just ignore it.
  • Major and minors are the backbone of Lifeguarding reaction; it is fundamental to professional response.
  • And, yes we need to focus on what we are doing in regards to treatment, but we can’t ignore what is going on around us.

In a nutshell, we apply what happens during actual guarding to the NL program and surprisingly it works.