Planning for an emergency

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Emergency planning is pivotal to any lifeguard team’s ability to respond to an emergency situation. Emergency plans provide a framework within which lifeguards can respond quickly and appropriately to each emergency, regardless of the conditions. Emergency procedures answer the questions: who will do what? When? Where? How?

While no one can predict the exact circumstances of an accident, it is possible to prepare for the types of emergencies that occur frequently in supervised aquatic facilities.

Contents of an emergency plan

Every facility should have a written emergency plan that includes the following:

• Where the emergency equipment is located. How will it be brought to the incident site?
• Who responds first? Second? Third?
• Who takes the major responsibility for handling the incident? For giving directions? For crowd control?
• What are the preferred locations where injured people can be removed from the water?
• Which emergency service should be called, and under what circumstance?
• What is the response time for these services?
• Who talks with police, press and relatives?
• What reports are needed? Who completes the reports and initiates the follow-up action resulting from the emergency?

Practising emergency procedures

Real emergencies happen suddenly and require split-second decision making under stress. Well-rehearsed emergency procedures result in a confident, controlled and orderly lifeguard response. 

Established procedures mean that as many decisions as possible about how and when to respond have been made long before the emergency arises. This ensures that the lifeguard is free to focus on the problem experienced by the patient, and on providing the best solution.

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