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Simulation Provides Key Training
Working quickly yet methodically, lifeguards pulled two victims out of the water at the community pool in Escalon on Wednesday morning, as sirens wailed in the distance to announce the arrival of emergency crews.

The victims were placed on backboards and CPR - cardiopulmonary resuscitation - started in hopes of reviving them. Though the scene was tense, it was just a simulation ... and the 'victims' were fellow lifeguards who were eventually able to get up and walk away from the staged drowning.

Every other week, lifeguards go through an inservice training but pool supervisor Jessica Fisher said this was the first time they had gone as far as having a response from the local police, fire and ambulance squads.

"We wanted to see how (quickly) they would respond, what our job would be once they got here," Fisher explained of having her lifeguards work cooperatively with responding emergency crews. "It made it a little more real for our lifeguards."

When the call was dispatched, there was a report of one possible drowning victim at the pool. As is often the case on actual calls, there were more victims than first reported, as lifeguards were working on two separate drowning victims.

"We've been building up to this," Recreation Director Denean Santos said of having the simulation. "This was amazing ... you just see their strengths growing."

A team including lifeguards Michael Beeman, Jamie Franceschetti and Chelsey Voral worked together to pull victim Cody Cheary out of the water and get him breathing and stabilized while on the other side of the pool, rescuers Chelsea King, Bianca Terry, Eric Metzler and Kendra Reece tended to victim Kacey Ball.

Responding emergency crews went to help with Cheary upon arrival on scene, while a couple of police officers watched the lifeguards work on Ball. Following the simulation Escalon Community Ambulance chief Mike Pitassi addressed the group.

"We're not going to be able to divide our resources to take care of two patients at one time," he explained of his team helping only with one victim.

When they got the call, he added, it was for one victim. Arriving on the scene, they found two and if that were the actual case, they would have called for a second ambulance to come in.

"The closest back up ambulance would be in Riverbank," Pitassi said.

That means it would be another 10 minutes or so for the second ambulance crew to arrive, making it that much more important for the lifeguards to continue with the CPR and life-saving measures until that crew is on scene.

Escalon Community Ambulance carries an 'auto pulse' machine on their rig, which does compressions for CPR, leaving an EMT free for other tasks to help the patient.

Pitassi said if there were an actual drowning at the pool, he would need as much information as possible from lifeguards, ranging from how long the person had been down in the water and what may have led to the drowning, such as whether the person hit their head, to help assess the situation.

And while he said it was important to put the victims on the backboard for stabilization and quicker transport, it's even more important to focus on getting them breathing.

"Use your good judgment," he told the lifeguards. "Necks and backs are important, but they're not going to matter if you're not breathing ... the key thing is ventilation and circulation."

Police Chief Doug Dunford said the case was treated as if it were real, lending an authenticity to the scene that had one school employee coming out to the pool to see whether there had been an actual drowning, as the crews rolled in with lights and sirens going.

"From the time this was called in, it took two minutes for the first police officer to arrive, three minutes for fire and four minutes for the ambulance," Dunford said of the quick response.

But he also said there was very little communication among the lifeguards, and that's something they should work on, from quickly getting someone to all 9-1-1 if a victim is found in the pool to letting each other know what they are doing during the actual rescue.

"You guys need to brief them (emergency crews) on who's worse and what's going on," Dunford said of providing the necessary information about the victims.

Pitassi said he was pleased to see the training kick in for the lifeguards, as they stayed calm and focused throughout the event.

"Denean brought it to my attention," Dunford added of staging the simulated drowning. "I thought it was a great idea ... it puts a little more realism into their job."

Fisher agreed that it was beneficial for all those participating.

"During a normal inservice, we'll be coaching them, walking them through it," she said of assisting the lifeguards with rescue operations. "This time they were on their own, there was more of an adrenaline rush, I saw some hands shaking ... I think it allowed the lifeguards to get an idea of what they'd have to do in this situation."