Lifeguards vie for Red Cross title
July 21, 2009
The crowd at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center on Saturday was a stark change from the typical throng of weekend pool-goers. About 60 lifeguards from across the state assembled at the facility to compete in a battle of brawn and brains – Baywatch-style.
The annual Lifeguard Games are hosted by the American Red Cross to crown the team that proves to be most prepared for possible poolside scenarios. "This event is a great way for lifeguards to practice their skills in a non-life-threatening environment," said Red Cross health and safety director Mary Matthiessen. "They can take what they practice here back to their own individual pools and put them into practice."
Among the contenders at this year’s contest was a group of five lifeguards from the South Summit Aquatic & Fitness Center (SSAFC) in Kamas. Lifeguard trainer and former swim coach Leigh Anderson joined Isaac Davis, John Rob, Chandra Wilson and Clark Iroz to represent Summit County’s only participating team.
"It’s very competitive," says Kelly Jacobs, pool director at SSAFC. "[To win] says a lot about your staff."
This year’s competition consisted of various drills including how to rescue someone with a spinal injury, what to do with active (conscious and struggling) and passive (unconscious or submerged) drowning victims, CPR protocol and first-aid procedures. At each station, the teams acted under the watchful gaze of judges with expertise in emergency response. Scoring was based on the group’s ability to assess the scenario at each station and to act using the proper water-safety techniques set by the American Red Cross.
Although the SSAFC crew didn’t place in the top spots, the competition proved to be a valuable learning experience for Anderson and her teammates. "It definitely helps me because I saw where they had problems," she said.
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The event was the first attempt at the Lifeguard Games for four of the five SSAFC team members. "Everything was new and they didn’t really know what to expect," Anderson explained. "They all want to go back next year and try it again."
She said that she plans to utilize exercises similar to those at the Games in future lifeguard-training courses. "I think for the next class we’ll do more scenarios, because we practice all these skills, but we don’t go from start to finish – from when it happens until EMS takes the person away."
The most common things SSAFC lifeguards deal with are incidents requiring first aid such as scrapes and bruises. "There’s really not a lot of major water rescues," said Anderson. Still, she doesn’t want that to discount the importance of knowing how to act in dire situations. Events like this one give her confidence that the lifeguards are capable of acting quickly and appropriately should there be a more serious incident.
"I think it’s a great experience," she said. "It helps them to recognize the different situations a little bit easier. It’s fun to see how your skills compare to the other teams."
A team from Cottonwood Heights took the first-place trophy, followed by teams from Kearns and Fairmont in second and third.
For more information and lifesaving resources from the Salt Lake Area chapter of the American Red Cross, call (801) 323-7000 or visit http://www.utahredcross.org .