Training lifesavers in the Saudi desert

10 March 2016
In January and February this year Steve Good and Sallie Watson from Royal Life Saving Society WA were sent to the sandy deserts of Saudi Arabia to train lifeguards. The Saudi Arabian Swimmingthree saudi lifeguards practising CPR on manikin Federation (SASF) commissioned Royal Life Saving to complete a total of 5 weeks of training in First Aid and Pool Lifeguard Awards across 2 separate courses, with Steve training the males and Sallie training the females.

Steve was the first to head over and meet with SASF. The first week long course was for staff of the largest fitness chain in Saudi Arabia “Fitness Time”. With 120 facilities across Saudi Arabia it is the largest and fastest growing fitness centre in the Kingdom.

The first two days of the week long courses concentrated on first aid and developing the skills of basic life support and first aid treatment. This was well received by all students both male and female, with all students passing this component.

Steve completed the first course with 9 students in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, then drove 450km through the desert to Damman which is on the Eastern Coast of Saudi Arabia near the Bahrain border. The second course was delivered to 11 students at their swimming complex called the Green Hall in Sports City.

This is an amazing facility with a 10 lane 50m Olympic Pool, 10m Dive tower in a 5m deep dive pool. This pool had multiple diving boards and platforms with a lift to take divers to their desired height. The third pool in the complex was a 6 lane 25m pool with adjustable floor at one end to set to their desired height. All the bells and whistles with media boxes, function rooms, grandstand seating, sauna, and cold bathes.

The three facilities in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah were all built in 1979, at the King of Saudi Arabia’s request, and were designed by the creator of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games Pool Stadium with no expense spared. These facilities still look like they were built only last season, with crystal clear water and ultra clean plant room floors that you could eat your dinner off.

Royal Life Saving’s presence in the Middle East was part of a risk management approach, to liaise and assist the SASF and Fitness Time Gyms to raise the standards of these facilities in the Kingdom. We walked them through segments of the WA Health Department Code of Practice policies and standards to achieve this.

Saudi lifeguards practising in water rescueIn Jeddah 14 students took part in the course with most successfully completing all components. Students were put through their paces in first aid, basic water and advance water rescue skills and techniques.

Sallie Watson then flew over to begin her training with the women. This was a first for the Kingdom and Sallie had some varied swimming abilities to deal with. The first of 2 courses for Sallie was held for the British International School of Jeddah and comprised of mainly expatriate teachers. The second and most rewarding for Sallie was held at the Women’s Welfare Centre for a group of Saudi Arabian women.

This course had some great outcomes, with the female students learning first aid, basic water rescue and safety skills which included how to get out of their Abaya or Burka in the water if they fell in. These are skills and knowledge that will be of great benefit to their local communities.

Royal Life Saving WA and SASF are looking forward to future developments in training in Saudi Arabia, with the aim of training up a local to continue the delivery of Pool Lifeguard courses in the Kingdom.

Footnote from Steve Good: “To answer the most common questions I have been asked about my Saudi trip; NO it is not always hot in the desert, and NO we did not teach them how to do a Camel Tow.”

For more details on how you too can learn First Aid or Pool Lifeguard skills check out the training courses we offer.