BELPRE - Lifeguards and longtime patrons of the Belpre City Pool are well prepared for emergencies after participating in drowning and safety drills throughout the season.
"I started having my lifeguards do surprise drills at least once a week for the past two years," said manager Jennifer Shoup, who is also the lifeguard trainer for the Marietta Family YMCA in Marietta. "It keeps the guards on their toes and helps build their confidence so they are able to react when something does happen and don't freeze in fear."
Once - sometimes twice - each week since the city pool opened at the end of May, Shoup has one lifeguard act as if drowning without the knowledge of the 14 other lifeguards employed at the facility.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Belpre Pool lifeguards Tyler Welch, left; Noy Rogers, middle; and Ryan Potter, right; lift fellow lifeguard Tori Pyatt, who is secured by straps to a back brace out of the city pool on Friday during a training drill.
Shoup started this training when she became the pool's manager at the beginning of last summer and saw how it built and strengthened the confidence and abilities of each individual lifeguard.
"This year I have almost all new staff and I knew I had to do the weekly drills again to help them," she said. "At the beginning they were wary and nervous and now they feel more confident in their skills."
Second year lifeguards Ryan Potter and Noy Rogers along with first year lifeguard Tyler Welch worked together on Friday afternoon to place fellow second year lifeguard Tory Pyatt on a backboard to be removed from the pool safely in a simulation of a spinal rescue.
"Because we do the safety drills pretty often, we know what to do when an emergency happens," Rogers said. "Because we do them once a week we don't have to think about the steps, we just do them."
During the drills, one lifeguard jumps in the pool after the victim while another waits on the deck to aid in pulling the swimmer to land and two other lifeguards bring the CPR equipment including an automatic external defibrillator (AED) . The AED is not turned on during the drills to save the machine.
Friday's drill was a spinal, which allowed the lifeguards to practice their skills of putting an injured swimmer on a backboard and securing their neck and spine in the case of injury. Shoup said the spinal drill is in the case of a swimmer hurting their head or neck after diving into a shallow depth or if someone accidentally lands on them when jumping into the water.
"There are often spinal injuries in pools and our lifeguards need to be ready for that, not only CPR emergencies," Shoup said.
Not only does it allow the lifeguards the ability to improve their individual skills, but also their teamwork.
"It helps us learn how to work together in an emergency and not get in each other's way," Pyatt said.
Shoup said she was inspired to have her lifeguards do the drills by an emergency during her time as a lifeguard several years ago.
"As this emergency was happening two of my fellow lifeguards froze up and it was because they had never practiced what to do in an emergency," she said.
As this summer's heat has driven as many as 100 people to the pool each day, Shoup said the drills are as much for the pool's patrons as for the guards.
"This is great for the public, too," she said. "Not only does it help parents feel safe letting their kids come here because they know the lifeguards are prepared, but they also know how to react during an emergency and not get in the way of the lifeguards."
Shoup plans to continue the training drills next year and possibly grow the program to more pools managed by the Marietta Family YMCA.