Evidence based standards in lifesaving: A Preliminary Report of the US Lifeguard Standards Coalition - From the American Red Cross, the US Lifesaving Association, and the YMCA of the USA

TitleEvidence based standards in lifesaving: A Preliminary Report of the US Lifeguard Standards Coalition - From the American Red Cross, the US Lifesaving Association, and the YMCA of the USA
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsWernicki, PG, Markenson, D, DeMers, J
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers02-19

Lifesaving programs and organizations throughout the world operate under standards and guidelines. These rules, techniques, and operational strategies have been developed over the years by various methods. These methods have included trial and error, expert opinion, tradition, and inference from related fields. Few appear to have been based upon objective experimentation and research. Medicine and science based fields are now re-examining their recommendations and protocols to ensure that they are in accordance with objective evidence. The United States Lifeguard Standards Coalition was established to do just this for US lifesaving. Its outcomes may have relevance for lifesaving worldwide, since many techniques and standards in place in the US are also used in other countries.

The Lifeguard Standards Coalition is a partnership between the United States Lifesaving Association, the American Red Cross, and YMCA of the USA. These organizations set standards for training of the vast majority of lifeguards in the US, with each specializing in particular areas. The coalition is currently engaged in a process to critically and thoroughly evaluate our common lifesaving standards and strategies. The evaluation will include an effort to uncover and evaluate all of the available and pertinent evidence based science and research. Dozens of additional agencies and organizations with appropriate expertise and resources have agreed to participate in the coalition. These include the ILS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, National Park Service, US Coast Guard and many others.

Two national meetings have thus far been held and more are scheduled. To begin the process, after extensive debate, fifteen basic questions pertaining to lifesaving were developed. They involve qualifications, scanning, staffing, first aid…etc. Examples include: Is there evidence to support recommending a minimum age for lifeguards? How long should a lifeguard be assigned to continually watch the water before interruption of duty? Is oxygen safe, effective, and feasible in the drowning process resuscitation? These questions will now be evaluated by research teams. They will investigate the evidence available and grade its level of efficacy to answer these questions.

Preliminary results to some of the questions will be available for discussion at the World Water Safety Conference. The final products can then be used by the lifesaving community to modify existing standards or formulate new ones. In some instances there will be little to no appropriate evidence. This will lead to recommendations for needed future research and studies. The process will be ongoing for a number of years, but when completed is expected to represent the most comprehensive review of lifesaving and associated literature ever performed.

Further information can be found at www.lifeguardstandards.org.

Learning Outcomes
  1. To understand why lifesaving standards need to be evaluated using evidence based research?
  2. To learn what the Lifeguarding Standards Coalition is and how is it proceeding?
  3. To learn the preliminary results of the Coalitions work and how can they be applied?
  4. To be able to evaluate how the Lifeguard Standards Coalition may have relevance beyond the United States