Rescue aids

close up of rescue tube under the arm of a pool lifeguard

Lifeguards should always be ready for all potential in water rescues. Taking simple steps, such as having effective rescue aids, could be the key to drowning and injury prevention. The most effective aids for water related rescues are those which are sufficiently buoyant and are designed to be used specifically for in water rescues.

The Lifebuoy or Lifering is as old as Colonial Australia. Originally known as a “Kisby Ring” (which is thought to be named after a British Naval Officer Thomas Kisbee 1792 – 1877) the safety device was designed to be thrown to a person in the water, in order to provide buoyancy and prevent drowning (1). Commonly found on ships and near waterways such as oceans, beaches, lakes, rivers and dams, this device is arguably the most recognised symbol of water rescue and safety in the world.

Although suitable for many conditions, Royal Life Saving considers this type of rescue device (lifebuoy) unsuitable for busy areas, such as swimming pools as throwing the device into a pool could injure the casualty or nearby swimmers. Potentially, instead of rescuing the person, you would probably knock them out with the Lifering.

In 1919 Henry Walters of the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Savings Corps invented the Walters Torpedo Buoy. (2) This device was designed to increase efficiency during a rescue by decreasing the amount of drag on the device whilst in the water. The new design is famously shown in the TV series and now movie “Baywatch”, is smaller, lighter and made of red plastic.

The Rescue Tube is a device commonly used at Australian beaches and swimming pools due to its multi-purpose design. The rescue tube is made of a dense foam which makes it light weight and extremely buoyant, whilst remaining flexible, so it can be wrapped and clipped around a swimmer or casualty. Its longer design can be used in multiple ways, for example, a reach rescue. With the aid of the attached rope, the rescue tube can also be use to perform a throw rescue over smaller distances such as in a pool environment.

To carry, or to not carry a Rescue Tube? This is a question commonly asked by many lifeguards who are undergoing training. When first learning the basics of water safety, lifesavers and lifeguards are always taught self-preservation. Performing a rescue without rescue or flotation aids will not only put you at risk, but also endanger the drowning swimmer or casualty.

Ask yourself this question, if I spot a person in trouble in the water, do I run 20 metres to collect the nearest rescue tube to perform a rescue, or would I just jump in without it.

Most often answer is that you would just jump in without it due to reflex actions. However, this will increase the risks associated with the rescue.

As a lifeguard, you should always carry a rescue tube with you to ensure you are always prepared for a potential rescue. It is always better to have it but not need it rather than need it and not have it.

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