Introduction: How to Make and Ocean Rescue (as a Lifeguard)

Here i am going to prove step by step instruction on how to rescue someone in peril in the ocean. This instruction is based upon USLA regulations, in accordance with life saving techniques outlined for all New Jersey ocean guards. I have been an open water lifeguard for Island Beach Beach Patrol for roughly 5 years, I have had this stuff drilled into my brain each year and i have assisted in the training for rookies and junior guards for 2 years now. This will provide universal protocol and techniques for a basic rescue when you are an open water lifeguard.

Step 1: Always Be Scanning

Scanning is what we lifeguards use to watch the water. Basically it involves looking from the lifeguard stand on one side of you  (North or South) and look from there to the lifeguard stand on the opposite side you started. You must be watching people on the sand as well as in the water. you shouldn't exactly be looking at  every individual person in the water or on the sand, but looking at the patrons as a whole. From here you can pick out any possibly threatening situation such as horseplay in the water, someone going out too far or someone swimming into a possible rip current. On the beach some hazards could include people passing out from heat exhaustion, or in my beach's case, drinking, which is outlawed to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and possibly death

Scanning helps prevent ay possible rescues and identifies the water conditions in every area, incase you need to make a rescue (i.e. rips currents, shallow or deep water, drift, and or wildlife (rays, bluefish, baitfish, skates, or sharks). Considering this post is to instruct how to rescue rather than prevent lets get into it.

Step 2: Identify the Problem and Signal Other Guards

As soon as you begin to see a rescue developing you must identify the problem. Is it in a rip current? how immediate is the threat, is the water extremely rough? All of these situations call for various approaches. But the first step is to alert your partner that something is going on and make a move. 

Generally as you jump off the stand and begin to grab your piece of equipment in this case it will be a rescue can, you must being blowing rescue whistles (multiple whistle blasts) as well as have your sitting partner stand up to signal that shits hitting the fan in your area. This step is imperative as it lets the rest of the patrol know your going in and they can all send a representative from their stands to provide backup.

Step 3: Assess the Water and Get in It

This part is equally important, if there is a rip current, identify it as it could aid you in pulling you out towards your victim, also take account for any possible drift, this means hopping in the water up drift from your victim so that it pulls you to them without you having to swim against said drift. Once you have identified your situation and made your approach get in the water an start swimming towards your victim.

When swimming to your victim you must NEVER TAKE YOUR EYS OFF OF THEM. This means swimming with your head up looking at them at all times. God forbid they go under or drift away while your head is in the water you could lose them. Remember this is someones life we are dealing with.

Step 4: Approaching Your Victim

When approaching your victim you must speak to them at all times. Identify yourself as a lifeguard "helle sir/ma'am i am a lifeguard i am here to assist you" seems to work pretty well. It is important to ask if they need help, if they decline you must stay with them until either they ask for help or you find it to be  dangerous situation for both you or the victim. 

A good portion of victims will be panicking and trying to latch onto you, that rescue can has  6 feet of rope for a reason. Keep the can between you and the victim and instruct them to grab ahold of it. From here you can converse with you victim or as i call it "shoot the shit". Be sure to tell the victim of your every move before you do anything and reassure them that they will be fine and that you are there to help.

Step 5: Secure Your Victim

When securing the victim it is important that you explain to them your every move to keep them calm, aware, and comfortable. To secure, you have your victim hold the rescue can horizontally, with their arms draped over it and hands on the far rails. From here you get behind your victim with one arm around their body grasping the inside rails of the can. Be sure to put your hip into their back to help keep them afloat.

Step 6: Swimming In

This is probably the easiest part in my opinion. You already secured your victim, therefore they are in no immediate danger so you can take your time. Also back-up guards have already been called up and are awaiting your call.

In the event of rough water, a far rescue, or a serious rip current, you can call for a line ( rescue can with a long rope attached to a box on the beach) when your victim is secured. At my place of work to call you place one fist high in the air to get on out. When the line gets there, you clip the 2 cans together, place your victim on the can like a body board get on top and link arms with the other guard. Beging pumping your fist up and down to signal the rest of the guards on the beach to pull you in. To stop the line at any time raise your fist to signal the pullers.

If you aren't using a line, using the same hip in back postion you used to secure the victim begin to swim with one arm and your legs. If there is a rip instead of swimming in against it, swim parallel to the beach until you are out of it then begin to swim in.

Whether you are being pulled in or swimming in, talk to your victim, have a nice conversation, explain whats happening as well. You should also begin to take down their information such as name, age, where they are from, etc. this is for a radio transmission on beach to keep in the rescue records.

In the event that the water is really calm or safe, you can have the victim ride in tow while you swim in with no contact on the can.

IMPORTANT: In the event of rough water, and huge waves, get behind the victim when a wave is coming and shield them.

Step 7: Getting Onto the Beach/After Rescue

When you finally reach where the victim and yourself can stand, help the victim up but do not break contact with them until you or on dry sand or relieved of your position by a superior lifeguard. Keep your arm locked around under their armpit this will help if they collapse or begin to be pulled by an undertow. Once on dry sand explain to your victim what they did wrong and tell them to have a nice day.

Next get on the radio to give a log of the rescue, include the victims name, age, where they are from. Also include the names of all guards directly involved, the equipment used, whether it was in a rip or not, as well as the depth of the water where the rescue was made. From here your done and great job!