Study finds more emergency training, defibrillators needed at pools

Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

May 22, 2008

Lifeguards, managers and other staff at the nation's aquatic facilities should be trained to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to reduce heart attack fatalities — the top cause of death at swimming pools, lakes and beaches, suggests a recently published study from Ball State University.

An analysis of serious injuries at 144 aquatic facilities at colleges and universities around the country found in a recent five-year period that 70 percent of all deaths were due to heart attacks while just 10 percent were a result of drowning.

"With the relatively high incidence of heart-related deaths, all aquatic staff should be trained in the use of automated external defibrillators," said Leland Yarger, coordinator of Ball State's aquatics program and a physical education instructor. "Automated external defibrillators should be required at public swimming facilities just as first aid kits are."

AEDs are portable automatic devices used to restore normal heart rhythm to patients in cardiac arrest. Applied outside the body, the device automatically analyzes the patient's heart rhythm and advises the rescuer whether or not a shock is needed to restore a normal heartbeat.

"If an AED is immediately used on a victim with heart failure, the survival rate is about 85 percent," Yarger said. "Organizations should consider the cost of $2,000 per unit versus the benefit of patron survival. If you have a cardiac event and the rate of survival depends on care provided at the scene, wouldn't you want this lifesaving device present?"

He recommends that a national aquatic management curriculum should be considered by higher education, to include the development of specialized certifications for swimming pools, water parks and open-water (surf and nonsurf) environments.

His study also found that 80 percent of aquatic facility managers did not have the recommended minimum training and certification. Additionally, 32 percent had no experience in the field before moving into a management position.

Yarger believes many colleges and universities should take advantage of their existing aquatic programs to offer more certification programs for their students and alumni. Certification is needed for the growing number of professional aquatic management positions being created as the nation's expanding water recreation industry.

He also recommends legislation governing procedures for all aquatic rescue personnel and their management staff similar to existing rules for the medical community, such as EMT training and work requirements.

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