The prototype of situational dimensions in aquatic life-saving

TitleThe prototype of situational dimensions in aquatic life-saving
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsZalewski, T
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other NumbersPO-19

­Are special physical fitness tests and professional knowledge level sufficient indicators of the assessment of lifeguard as a criterion of qualification for that type of work? Will a lifeguard with high evaluation scores during training manage always real life-saving situation?

In majority, real life-saving situations are of problem nature, where decision-making and task-related elements are found, and sometimes highly risky ones. In connection with the afore-going, carrying out an efficient life-saving action depends also on the quality of specific external situation, ability of its perception and comprehension as well as on personality characters of lifeguard.

According to Tomaszewski’s theory of action-situation (Fig. 1), both a life-saving operation and “…no other objective process, nor of these that take place outside the man and in which the man participates, nor of those that take place in himself / herself, does not depend solely on himself /herself”. When undertaking to explain in full the factors affecting life-saving action efficiency, an attempt was made in the first stage of study to analyse an initial situation of life-saving operation, from which specific personality characters of lifeguard would result that could correlate with final life-saving result. As a result of reviewing the literature describing life-saving operations, five most important dimensions characterising the external surroundings of lifeguard were singled out and a theoretical model of life-saving situation was created with the following dimensions being part of it: social expectations, time deficit, operation maximalisation, regular training, and universalism.

The survey included a group of life-saving instructors with an average professional practice of 19 years as well as a group of lifeguards with an average professional practice of 3 years. Basing on the own experience and the given characteristics, the examined individuals evaluated a degree of intensity of the selected dimensions in aquatic life-saving on respective scales. The results confirm that all dimensions are important for lifeguards, their perception however being different, depending on professional experience. Statistical analysis allowed the following conclusions to be drawn:

  1. Lifeguards with little professional experience point at the dimension of social expectations as being less important than other dimensions. Considering the importance of lifeguard image in the society, a greater emphasis should be put during training on developing an awareness of fulfilling a pro-social role.
  2. Life-saving instructors, when compared with less experienced colleagues, deem the time deficit to be less important than other dimensions. Therefore, expansion of the number of life-saving simulations under time pressure during life-saving training increases the feeling of safety [security, reliability, self-assurance] in a lifeguard in emergency situations.
  3. The creation of theoretical model of a prototype life-saving situation and the analysis of its perception by lifeguards allows for determining lifeguard personality characters, on which life-saving operation efficiency may depend. This allows for appointing new directions in psychological studies that may constitute a basis for proposing a psychological predisposition test that would qualify for lifeguard profession.

Gracz J. Psychospołeczne uwarunkowania aktywności sportowej człowieka 1998 AWF Poznań (In Polish: Psychological and social determination of man’s sports activity).
Magnusson D. Personality development from an interactional perspective. [IN] Pervin L.A. Handbook of personality. Theory and research. The Guilford Press. New York. Londyn. 1990,
Tomaszewski T. (red) Psychologia. PWN Warszawa.1976 (In Polish: Psychology).