USLA Recommended Minimum Guidelines for Open Water Swimming Safety

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Open Water Source United States Life Saving Association RECOMMENDED MINIMUM GUIDELINES FOR OPEN WATER SWIMMING EVENT SAFETY Approved by the Board of Directors: May 7, 2005 The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) recognizes the many benefits to human health and safety derived from events, contests, and races held in the open water environment. In the interests of safety of all participants in such events, after soliciting broad input, USLA has developed these min
    Open Water Source   US Lifesaving Association Recommended Minimum Guidelines for Open Water Swimming Event Safety p. 1   United States Life Saving AssociationRECOMMENDED MINIMUM GUIDELINES FOROPEN WATER SWIMMING EVENT SAFETY Approved by the Board of Directors: May 7, 2005The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) recognizes the many benefits to human healthand safety derived from events, contests, and races held in the open water environment. In theinterests of safety of all participants in such events, after soliciting broad input, USLA hasdeveloped these minimum recommended guidelines to assist permitting authorities, aquatic safetyproviders, sanctioning bodies, and race/event promoters overseeing events open to the generalpublic in bodies of water other than pools. USLA stresses that these are recommended minimum  guidelines which should be exceeded in accordance with local conditions and past experience.Broad national guidelines cannot fully address the circumstances in every locale.Although USLA is the recognized provider of standards for aquatic safety in the surf environment,USLA acknowledges that other bodies, primarily the American Red Cross and YMCA of the USA,as does USLA, issue standards for aquatic safety in the inland, non-surf environment (stillwater). While USLA’s standards are generally the most stringent, there may be a desire to employ  standards provided by other nationally recognized organizations in the Stillwater environment.This statement should be utilized only in conjunction with the training and standards of the aquaticsafety providers used at an event. These are minimum recommended guidelines for promotingreasonable levels of event safety. They do not ensure absolute safety. USLA recognizes thatvariances in local conditions, environment, and organization may require that these minimumrecommendations be exceeded.1. Definitions1.1. Recognized Lifeguard Training Organization: A nationally recognized body which setsstandards for the training of lifeguards and aquatic rescuers, such as the United StatesLifesaving Association, American Red Cross, or YMCA of the USA.1.2. Trained Lifeguard: A lifeguard currently trained and certified to provide aquatic safety in water conditions consistent with those where the event will take place  by a recognizedlifeguard training organization. In the case of USLA, the lifeguard must be currentlyemployed by a USLA certified lifeguard agency. In cases that a lifeguard agency has jurisdiction over the area where the event will take place, that agency should take thelead in providing trained lifeguard personnel for the event and should be reimbursed inaccordance with local practice and prior agreement with the race director.1.3. Swim Safety Coordinator: The person directly responsible for aquatic safety at the event.This person will be a trained lifeguard  with supervisory experience or a person withmanagement level experience overseeing aquatic safety services involving trainedlifeguards, either of which in the environment where the event will take place (e.g. surfbeach or stillwater). (Note: A title other than Swim Safety Coordinator  may be preferredand substituted. We use this term as an example.)    Open Water Source   US Lifesaving Association Recommended Minimum Guidelines for Open Water Swimming Event Safety p. 2   1.4. Personal Escort: An individual with a boat or other similar conveyance with thecompetence to easily shadow a competitor and provide immediate aid until a trainedlifeguard can assist.2. Management 2.1. Swim Safety Coordinator: A ‘Swim Safety Coordinator’ independent of the Race Director, should be appointed. All aquatic safety issues should be assigned to the Swim SafetyCoordinator, who should have authority to ensure that aquatic safety directives areobserved. In cases where there is an overall event Safety Coordinator, the Swim SafetyCoordinator should coordinate with the event Safety Coordinator. The Swim SafetyCoordinator will be responsible for reporting any issues that compromise safety to theRace Director and/or event Safety Coordinator and taking necessary, mitigating actionsto ensure adequate levels of safety. The Swim Safety Coordinator must be present at theswim event and must be acting solely as the swim safety coordinator (i.e. not as aswimmer or lifeguard).2.2. Water Safety Plan: The Race Director and the Swim Safety Coordinator  should meet withall providers of public safety for the event to develop a pre-event safety plan and anemergency action plan for worst case scenarios. Pre-event swim cancellation criteria andplans should be developed with clear lines of authority that prioritize safety. Theemergency action plan should include rules under which the swim will be terminatedupon any credible account of a missing swimmer and a search will be conductedconsistent with USLA protocols (see Open Water Lifesaving   – The United States Lifesaving Association Manual  , Chapters 16 and 17). In case of a water evacuation orcancellation, or the removal of a swimmer, the situation should be coordinated with thecommunications center. A warning/waiver, with appropriate personal emergencyinformation, should be developed jointly, well in advance of the event, and includenotification of local hazards and conditions. Pre-race instructions for safety issues shouldbe developed as part of the Water Safety Plan (including water testing). The WaterSafety Plan should include safety at both the start and finish of the race, as well as alongthe entire course. A swim cut-off time should be determined in advance and published inevent promotion materials.2.3. Every agency involved and the event organizer should meet immediately following theevent to conduct an operational debriefing  of the event. Lessons learned  should bedrafted to improve the safety of future events.3. Lifeguards3.1. All lifeguard personnel should be trained lifeguards  whose training is specific andappropriate to the location of the event. When staffing permits, lifeguards should beemployed by the agency with jurisdiction over the event. Rescue boat operators shouldbe appropriately trained and equipped in accordance with standards promulgated by thelifeguard agency with jurisdiction or, if there is no lifeguard agency with jurisdiction, thenin accordance with pertinent local, state, and national standards.    Open Water Source   US Lifesaving Association Recommended Minimum Guidelines for Open Water Swimming Event Safety p. 3   3.2. Staffing Levels3.2.1. Determining appropriate lifeguard staffing levels is critical to event safety. Thereare many variables that should be considered in this determination and no singlebenchmark will be appropriate in every case. The appropriate level for each eventcan and should be adjusted in accordance with a variety of factors. These include, but are not limited to  : ã Past experience for the same or similar eventsã Number of participant s ã Length of swim courseã Design of swim courseã Proximity of the swim course to shoreã Anticipated surf sizeã Swimming ability of the participantsã Presence or absence of a pre -qualifying swim ã Beach conditionsã Surf and surface conditions   ã Water temperatureã Currentsã Weather conditions, including wind and fog 3.2.2. For races or events that extend away from the shoreline and exceed two andone/half miles personal escorts  should be required for each swimmer.3.2.3. On the day of the event, the Swim Safety Coordinator  should make an evaluationas to whether the preplanned number of lifeguards is still appropriate for existingconditions. Weather, currents, surf, and water temperature, for example, maycause a need for an increase in the number of lifeguards needed relative to thenumber of competitors in the water at any one time.3.3. Staff should be strategically placed along the course to ensure continual observation of allcompetitors and immediate response to the need for assistance.3.4. It is strongly advised to arrange the water-based patrol of law enforcement officials tokeep the course clear and safe from boaters or other intrusions.4. Medical Services4.1. An event Medical Director should be assigned to oversee planning and on-site oversightof the event. This person should, at minimum, be a paramedic, but should ideally be aphysician with training and experience in emergency medical care at multi-sport events.4.2. All lifeguards assigned to the event should be currently trained in CPR and first aid.4.3. No less than one Emergency Medical Technician (or above) should be available for every150 swim event participants. Each EMT should have access to all appropriate emergencymedical equipment.    Open Water Source   US Lifesaving Association Recommended Minimum Guidelines for Open Water Swimming Event Safety p. 4   4.4. Medical evacuation from the water to land based emergency medical services assigned tothe event should be able to be conducted in 10 minutes or less.4.5. At least one advanced life support ambulance must be made available on-site or within afive-minute response time for the purposes of evacuating patient(s) to a hospital.Additionally, at least one ambulance for each group of 250 competitors should be madeavailable. These additional ambulances can be certified as either advanced life support(ALS) or basic life support (BLS). Where a hospital emergency room is more than ½ houraway, air evacuation procedures should be planned or an on-site physician should bestaffed.4.6. Radio communication between the medical group and the Aquatic Safety Coordinatorshould be maintained throughout the event.4.7. A designated medical area should be established with a tent or other means to shelterpatients from the environment and to maintain patient privacy.5. Equipment5.1. Lifeguards: Each lifeguard along the swim course should be equipped with an observationplatform which the lifeguard is trained and competent to use, such as a lifeguard tower,rescue board, or shared use of a rescue boat, as well as a rescue floatation device(rescue tube or rescue buoy).5.2. Rescue Boats: For swim events that will extend more than 50 meters from shore,particularly where surf or currents are present, motorized rescue boats should beavailable and staffed by trained operators. The water safety plan  should includeprovisions for summoning additional rescue craft, such as the Coast Guard or harborpatrol, as needed in major emergencies.5.3. Communications: A dedicated race control communications system should be employedand should be available for all race functions. A public address system capable orreaching the majority of the beach or staging area with sufficient amplified strengthshould be available.5.4. Command Center: A command center should be established that functions as a centralcommunications point center and an central observation location for the event.5.5. Swimmer Identification: Swimmers should be required to wear fluorescent or other brightcolored swim caps and all competitors should be individually numbered, with numbers marked on the swimmers’ bodies in a manner that can be easily observed (duplicatenumbering in more than one area may be useful).5.6. Map: A large course map should be provided to swimmers prior to the event.5.7. Wetsuits: Participants should be advised of anticipated water temperature in advance andencouraged to wear wetsuits if they are not acclimatized to local water temperatures. Ifthe water temperature is below 60 degrees, consideration should be given to
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