5 Things for Lifeguards to Know Before Calling 911

It’s rare, but it happens — an emergency at the pool. Sometimes even the best training and prevention won’t be enough to avoid it. In some instances, you and your fellow lifeguards will be able to use your first aid and CPR training to handle injuries, but in other emergencies you may find yourself needing to call 911.

Making the call can be stressful, especially when you’re in the middle of a tense situation. It’s best to learn the protocol before you need to use it so that your 911 call can be as efficient as possible. Here’s what to know ahead of time:

1. Decide on roles.
When you’re assisting an injured person and decide you need to call 911 for support, one member of your team should stay behind to continue administering first aid or basic life-saving practices like CPR. Decide who will call 911, and either the caller or another person you’ve designated should meet Emergency Medical Services (EMS) when they arrive.

2. Remain calm.
You may be nervous to call 911 but the operators are there to help. Take a deep breath and think about what the operator needs in order to assist you. You’ll need to tell them where you are and give them a phone number in case you get disconnected, so having your pool’s address and phone number memorized is a good idea. If possible, call from the pool phone since a landline is easier to track and locate than a cell phone.

3. Give the operator as much information as possible.
The 911 operator will need to know the medical situation so the EMS team can be briefed. Describe what happened, the nature of the injury, and what you’ve done so far. 911 operators are trained to ask you very specific questions about what is happening, so it is extremely important to remain calm and listen so that you can understand and answer their questions. The operator will also tell you if there is something different you should be doing, and you can ask what your team can do to help until EMS arrives.

4. Confirm everything.
Before you get off the phone, have the operator confirm the address, phone number, and any relevant details so you can both make sure you’re on the same page and that EMS has the right information when they arrive. Let the operator hang up first to ensure you don’t cut off the call.

5. Call back if you need to.
Between the time you’re on the phone with 911 and the time EMS arrives, the situation may change. There may be new symptoms or developments that would be good for EMS to know so they can act quickly. It’s okay to call 911 again to give them an update.

Your pool supervisor will likely have a protocol in place for what to do when you need to call 911. By practicing the protocol before there is a real emergency, you’ll be better prepared to act quickly and calmly when needed. Remember, while emergencies don’t usually happen often, you have training and a great team around you for support when they do.

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