Joint training exercise at the MCLB Barstow pool

September 17, 2019

An Emergency Action Plan training exercise at the Oasis Pool aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, drew together the lifeguard team and fire department personnel August 27 to practice their lifesaving skills and to ensure that the aquatics center remains accident and injury-free for all of its patrons.

“We train once a month on all aspects of our job as lifeguards, but this EAP training exercise was a first since I’ve been here also involving the fire department paramedics and rescue personnel,” said Axel D. Rivera, Oasis Pool manager and supervising lifeguard.

If a drowning were to occur at the Oasis Pool, Rivera said, the lifeguards would contact 911 aboard base to set the EAP in motion.

“The EAP tells all involved parties, in this case, the lifeguards and fire department personnel, how to coordinate their efforts in the most effective way possible,” he said.

“When we have a passive and unresponsive patient we initiate rescue efforts first by the primary lifeguard in the pool tower giving one long blast on their whistle to alert others in the team what is happening,” Rivera said.

Another lifeguard calls 911 aboard base to set the EAP teams in motion. That whistle blast also sets a secondary lifeguard into action to get a rescue backboard to the pool’s edge.

“Then the lifeguard that initiated the EAP phone call gets the oxygen canister and the Automatic External Defibrillator and positions that equipment on the pool deck,” Rivera said.

We prevent accidents and injuries from happening because we stress to the pool going public they must obey the regulations that are in place to save their lives. Axel D. Rivera, Oasis Pool manager and supervising lifeguard

The primary lifeguard who first saw the victim jumps into the water carrying a flotation device to bring the unresponsive patient to the surface. “The lifeguard tube is then placed under the victim to keep them floating at the surface while the lifeguard brings them to the edge of the pool where the secondary lifeguard waits to help get them on to the rescue board,” Rivera said.

The board contains a special attachment that helps immobilize the head and neck of the victim to prevent aggravating any existing injury.

“Once the primary lifeguard is sure his partner has a solid hold of the victim’s arms to keep them from slipping back into the pool, the lifeguard tube is placed under the foot of the board to help stabilize it in the water,” Rivera said. “Then the primary lifeguard gets out of the pool to help pull the board containing the victim on to the pool deck.”

Vital signs are immediately assessed to determine if the victim is breathing. If not, then cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) efforts begin.

“The lifeguard team begins with two breaths into the victim’s mouth followed by 30 chest compressions,” Rivera said.

These compressions aren’t like the one you see administered by TV actors on medical dramas. “It doesn’t seem like the actor EMTs are pressing very hard, but we constantly train to make sure that you press down hard enough to compress the heart, and that takes a lot of pressure,” he said. The cycle of two breaths and 30 compressions continue until the patient revives or until EMTs arrive and take over the lifesaving efforts.

190827-M-TR039-155 Photo by Keith Hayes

“As part of this particular EAP training exercise, the paramedics from the Fire and Emergency Services Department responded with a stretcher, a rescue backboard of their own, and a device I’ve never seen in action before, an automatic CPR chest compressor,” Rivera said.

The automatic chest compressor clamps firmly on to the rescue backboard, is positioned over the patient’s heart and turned on to begin compressions by a plunger-like device to continue the CPR cycle. “The automatic chest compressor is a very helpful tool,” explained Assistant Fire Chief Greg Kunkel, who arrived with the fire crew as part of the EAP training. “It keeps on going no matter what and ensures that the victim gets consistent chest compressions to keep the oxygen in his blood circulating. It’s also safer for the EMT because they can strap themselves in in the ambulance rather than have to stand unrestrained in a moving vehicle to do the chest compressions.”

“This EAP training exercise is going to eventually become a quarterly training opportunity which helps keep emergency response crews and the lifeguards up to date and ready to respond,” Rivera said.

There are several different aspects to the lifeguard’s job, and all require training.

“We change the kind of training we do so it’s not just one thing. One day we’ll do CPR, another day (Automatic External Defibrillator), another day we’ll do oxygen administration, and another day we’ll do bloodborne pathogens,” he said.

The regular and consistent training the lifeguard team participates in gives them confidence in their ability to perform in an emergency situation.

“We prevent accidents and injuries from happening because we stress to the pool going public they must obey the regulations that are in place to save their lives,” Rivera said.

“Adhere to the safety policies and listen to the lifeguards,” he concluded. “We’re here to keep you from doing something that would cause us to have to save their lives.”

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