Just a Drill: Lifeguards Test Emergency Readiness

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Prairie du Chien police, EMS, and lifeguards work together poolside to practice a water rescue while swim team “actors” look on. (Contributed Photo)

By Breanna Teynor


Prairie du Chien lifeguards collaborated with local emergency services to practice their response to water emergencies. At noon on Thursday July 20th, Prairie du Chien police as well as Gunderson Ambulance responded to a planned emergency drill at Wacouta Aquatic Park. The drill was made possible thanks to “actors” from the Prairie du Chien swim team, who gave up some of their practice time to create a mock scenario for the guards, police, and EMS to respond to. These three groups worked together to remove a victim from the water, clear the pool, and administer any life-saving measures. Also present was Crawford County Emergency Management, who observed the entire drill and made sure the rescue, resuscitation, and first responder response satisfied both Red Cross lifeguard standards and federal regulations. However, they also offered another essential service: finding areas of improvement: 

“We had them as an outside, unbiased resource who was here to observe and offer any recommendations.” said Aquatics Director Emily Pedley-Fecht, who coordinated the event to help new staff members get a better understanding of their pool’s emergency action plan. Drills are not unusual to a lifeguard’s training. However, practicing a simulated rescue is often not realistic to what a real rescue might be like. Although all lifeguards, first responders, and actors were aware a drill would be taking place, the scenario was chosen at random. Few of the people involved knew what to expect from the day. Pedley-Fecht explains this choice, “it was important that everybody involved knew enough, but not the specifics.” By keeping a few variables unclear, all those involved would get a better understanding of how a real rescue might unfold while still feeling safe and informed. This training is necessary because it keeps first responders prepared for the unpredictability that their jobs can have. Controlled situations like these can be a good solution to filling these training gaps and are helpful to all those involved.

Alongside simulated drills, each lifeguard is AED and CPR certified. They are routinely tested on their physical abilities and memory of rescue procedures, including when to call for help. All of this is done to ensure that Wacouta Aquatic Park is equipped for any health and safety issue that may arise. The Hoffman Hall swimming pool will be hosting a similar drill this coming fall in order to make sure those facilities meet the same safety standards and give these professionals another chance to put their training to use.

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