It’s not every day that lifeguards get to use their training, but at least once a year, they get to sharpen their skills through an annual competition.
Eleven teams of lifeguards from across the province, including five teams from Vancouver Island, dove headfirst into the 2016 Barnsley B.C./Yukon Lifeguard Championship last weekend at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
The two-day event featured a manikin relay, pool simulations and a variety of first-aid scenarios designed to challenge their knowledge and judgment in times of crisis.
“I think a lot of members of the public don’t always know the level of training that lifeguards have,” said Dale Miller, executive director of the Lifesaving Society’s B.C. and Yukon branch. “This competition certainly shows that level of training and displays the skills that they have. We feel this is an amazing opportunity for them to raise their skills to another level.”
Four of the five Island teams were from Greater Victoria, including Extreme Caution, The Heart Stoppers, Fantastic Rookies 2.0 and Mouth to Mouth, with Qualicum’s Ravensong Aquatic Centre team rounding out the Island entries.
The championship recreated real-world first aid scenarios, such as CPR on someone who’s choking, and assessing a cycling crash. Miller said the training lifeguards receive can be translated to many situations outside of swimming.
“I’ve had two recent situations where lifeguards have performed first aid out of the pool setting, outside of their jobs,” he recalled. “One incident was three young fellows from Kitimat on their way back from the Pemberton Music Festival. They came across a car accident, and with their skills, they reacted well, were calm under pressure, and they knew what to do.
“The other one was in Salt Spring just outside the aquatic centre – a man fell down from a heart attack. The lifeguards were out there quickly with a defibrillator and used their first aid and rescue skills and saved his life.”
Of the Greater Victoria teams, Extreme Caution placed second overall, placing first in the priority assessment, first aid and individual first aid competitions, but falling behind in the pool simulations, manikin relay and Barnsley relay.
The Heart Stoppers managed to excel where Extreme Caution didn’t, placing first in the relays but slipping in the other contests, resulting in their third place finish.
Fantastic Rookies 2.0 placed seventh overall, but left Saanich Commonwealth Place with the title of Rookie Team of the Year.
The top team of the competition was Abbotsford’s Eh Team, having aced the pool simulation and consistently placed second or third in the remaining competitions.
Miller said this year’s event was very successful and he hopes more lifeguards from around B.C. will turn out for next year’s competition.
“It’s nice to be able to take them out of the pool setting and test their first aid skills in different scenarios,” he said. “These are skills that they carry for a lifetime.”