Aquatics

That Can’t Happen Here. Can It?

January 17, 2012

Drowning in Massachusetts Pool

Rebecca Boyd
Aquatics and Risk Management Coordinator
University of Waterloo

With the news coverage of a woman’s body being discovered in a Massachusetts pool, apparently three days after she went missing, a great deal of attention is being focused on the lifeguards and what they may or may not have done that contributed to this bizarre series of events that led to the tragedy of the mother of five losing her life. The incident involves Marie Joseph who went swimming on a hot Sunday afternoon with neighbours, had a collision with the 9-year old neighbour at the bottom of a slide and never resurfaced. It involves allegations of lifeguards ignoring information about the missing woman and neighbours assuming she left the pool. It involves inspections on two days by two Health Inspectors on the days her body was assumed to be at the bottom of the pool, of a permit being issued by the Inspectors to a pool too cloudy to see the bottom in the four foot shallow end or at the 12 foot deep end.

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Double Vision — The Coach as Lifeguard

December 08, 2011

Can a coach safely do double duty?

Jen Knights
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
University of Western Ontario

It sounded like a watermelon hitting the sidewalk. I knew something was wrong before I even looked up. I was on deck in a supervisory role during a diving practice. The Coach was working with his athletes and there was a Lifeguard guarding the pool as well. I remember being at the lifeguard station tidying up and hearing usual pool sounds including the sound of divers rebounding off the end of the springboards. Then — thunk. I began to move towards the diving boards and saw the Coach in the water and the Lifeguard en route. As I approached the scene for a brief moment I was fuming — wondering why the Coach in the water before the Lifeguard. But then I realized the Coach was in the water because it was his athlete he was supervising, and he knew all too well the sound of a diver in trouble.

Lifeguards use all of their senses while on duty — we observe directly with our eyes, use our hearing to listen for the unusual, employ our sense of smell when people decide to toss eucalyptus (or urinate) onto sauna rocks, and our sense of touch when moving across an uneven or slippery pool deck before entering the water to perform a rescue. Following an emergency situation or rescue it is not uncommon for a Lifeguard to vividly remember a specific sight, or smell, or sound — forever. That memory becomes embedded in your brain and gets tucked away for future reference. The diving Coach knew that sound and the Lifeguard did not, but certainly does now.

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How Accessible are You?

December 08, 2011

An examination of the 2010 ADA Standards

Lexi Christoules-Chaput
Assistant Director, Informal Sports & Student Personnel
CAMPUS RECREATIONAL SPORTS
Indiana University

Ira Wrestler
Assistant Director, Aquatics and Safety
University Recreation
Central Michigan University

On July 26th, 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The law would prove to be a huge victory for Americans with disabilities in gaining equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. In celebrating the 20 anniversary of the act, the Department of Justice revised regulations and the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design were signed into law, and the revisions are sure to impact campus recreation facilities nationwide.

Below is a brief history of the act got to where it is today
1968 — Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)- First act put into place defining access standards
1990 — Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
1991 — Access Board publishes ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and Department of Justice signs into law
2002 — ADAAG is revised (adopted in 2004) — this is the first time recreation facilities are mentioned
2010 — ADAAG Standards for Accessible Design is created and signed into law

There are two major parties involved in the creation, implementation and enforcement of ADA standards and laws. The first party is The Access Board, an independent Federal agency created in 1973 to ensure access. It operates with 28 full time staff members. Half (14) of the representatives are appointed from most Federal departments, and the other 14 members are appointed by the president to a four-year term, a majority of whom must have a disability. The board is responsible for creating standards that are adopted by others, maintaining design criteria and providing technical assistance and training. This is the group who deals with standards for all new construction and can and should be contacted for consultation when facility planning is being done. This responsibility falls mainly with the architect of the facility, but the organization managing the facility after completion can also contact the Access Board with questions.

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Swim with a Buddy — Don’t Guard with One

September 28, 2011

Jennifer Knights
Program Coordinator — Aquatics
The University of Western Ontario

Lifeguards are social creatures. Pool decks are warm. Guards are often lulled by the mellow sounds of swimmers rhythmically making their way from one end of the pool to another. Types of swims vary as do the number of swimmers in the pool. The pool deck can be exciting. It can also be considered boring at times. These things combined may lead to situations where lifeguards gravitate towards each other and end up guarding side by side.

The term often used for this type of guarding is “buddy guarding” – although if you ask most aquatic supervisors what they would call it you would probably hear them let out an exasperated cry. It is definitely not something that is taught in lifeguard certification courses, yet most supervisors will tell you they have had to deal with it on at least one occasion — and that is an understatement. Even facilities with the best training, the most comprehensive policy and procedures manual, and the most hands-on aquatic supervisors can experience the buddy guarding phenomenon.

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The Myth around closing Indoor Pools when there’s Lightning

August 05, 2011

Tom Griffiths, Ed.D.
Director of Aquatics and Safety Officer
Department of Athletics
Penn State University

Closing Indoor Pools during Lightning Storms is THE Great Urban Myth in Aquatics. It rates right up there with Blacks can’t Swim, Snapple supports the KKK, McDonalds put worms in Big Macs, Coca-Cola rots your bones and the Kentucky Fried Rat.

Why then do so may water safety professionals and organizations prescribe to this myth?
According to Heath and Heath in their popular and informative book, ‘Making it Stick’, Urban Myths stick like this one, because they have five important elements: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional. When it comes to the indoor lightning myth, credibility and emotion based on fear are two important and predominant traits making this particular myth stick.
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Good Swimmers Don’t Drown

May 12, 2011

Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management, LLC

Multiple athlete drownings in triathlons have recently puzzled the multi-sport community. In July of 2008, a 60 year old male and a 52 year old male drowned in two different triathlons on the same weekend. A 32 year old male died during the swim of the New York City Triathlon the previous weekend.

Why do well-conditioned athletes die during the swim portion of the three discipline event, rather than during the more hazardous cycling portion or when they are more fatigued on the run? As aquatics safety expert Tom Griffiths has said, “good swimmers don’t really drown—they die of other specific causes, known as ‘drowning triggers,’ that predispose them to death in the water.” The trigger that commonly causes these mysterious drowning deaths is Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome and Romano-Ward syndrome, which cause their sufferers to develop a sudden abnormal heart rhythm as a response to exercise or stress. These abnormalities can occur for no known reason in people who have “long QT” syndrome (“LQTS”), which refers to an interval seen on an EKG (electrocardiogram). Not everyone who has LQTS will develop a dangerous heart rhythm. However, when this does happen, it can be fatal.

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