Video Report: Le Meridien lifeguard training to boost island safety

PHUKET: Lifeguard training recently took place on Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort’s secluded beach to train guards from 11 different properties in Phuket.

The day was split into four sections with practical training at the beginning and end, and theory and first-aid training sandwiched in the middle, explained Surf Life Saving Australia Trainer and Assessor David Field, who has been conducting surf life-saving training workshops in Phuket for more than a decade.

“Most rescues are within 50 meters of the shore, so it’s safer for the lifeguards and safer for the victim if they bring the victim to the shore on a tube [rescue buoy],” Mr Field says as he watches a group of newly-trained hotel lifeguards practice their skills. “For Thai people, I really recommend this. If something goes wrong, they’ve got the tube attached to them – they’re safe. While if you lose the [rescue] board, they’re gone.”

The advantage to rescue boards is the speed in accessing a victim. However, with the especially rough beach breaks seen during the southwest monsoon season, the risk involved isn’t worth it, Mr Field explains.

During drills, the trainee lifeguards stop swimming about a meter away from the ‘victim’. They pull the rescue tube from behind them and pass it to the victim, before safely clipping it around them and starting to bring them back to shore.

“That went well,” Mr Fields says.

“In the hotel industry, the biggest issue lifeguards face is communication. There are a lot of people from non-swimming cultures that are coming to Phuket. The lifeguards have to be vigilant, but they also have to be good communicators – that’s either verbal communication or non-verbal communication.

“They have to get all these people from vastly different cultures to understand that swimming between these flags means a lifeguard is watching you and that you are safe.”

Though most lifeguards working in the hotel industry have some English-language skills, some of those comprising Phuket’s largest source markets, such as the Russians and Chinese, often have no English-language skills, making non-verbal communication essential.

“It’s better to use your whistle then a defib [automated external defibrillator, or AED]. The lifeguards are their to make sure guests have a good time and to prevent them from getting into trouble,” Mr Field explains.

A well-known Australian lifeguard saying is, ‘A good lifeguard never gets wet.’

The lifeguards training at the Le Meridien are being taught the ‘Chain of Survival’, which is founded on immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system; early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with an emphasis on chest compressions; rapid defibrillation (use of AED); effective advanced life support; and integrated post-cardiac arrest care.

Quick access to AEDs for lifeguards has up until recently been a major issue in Thailand, as the devices were only allowed to be used by those with advanced medical training. However, recent changes in legislation have allowed for hotels to get staff certified to use the nearly ‘dummy proof’ devices to assist in quick response life-saving efforts.

Mr Fields explains that it is essential that hotel lifeguards have an understanding of where lifesaving equipment is and the tendencies of the ocean at their ‘home’ location.

During the theory session after the morning practical, the lifeguards present plans of their hotels and emergency action plans that can be swiftly activated if necessary.

Mr Fields points out that many hotels on the island still don’t have pure medical oxygen in locations that they can be quickly accessed, which can hamper rescue efforts once a victim has been pulled from the water.

Though training is essential, so is properly equipping lifeguards to ensure they are able to take care of guests and themselves, Mr Fields notes.

“We’re building resources for the community. These lifeguards are from all over Thailand. When they go home, they will be sharing the knowledge they’ve gained through this training and will be making Thailand a safer place,” Mr Fields says.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

Phuket News

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