AYER — Sand and sunshine are central to a lifeguard’s work, but emergency preparedness is also part of the job description.
Whether it’s an accident, a missing person or a simple medical call, there are any number of cases where lifeguards would need to use the beach call box for help.
To ensure smooth collaboration in those circumstances, EMTs from the Ayer Fire Department held a brief instruction session at Sandy Pond Beach on July 5.
Town beach and waterfront director Heidi Januskiewicz said that sort of training and team-building is important.
“It really is a collaborative effort,” she said. “We are very limited (at the beach) without the ambulance.”
The joint training was the first of its kind and came about after inter-agency discussions revealed areas that could be improved, said EMT Jeremy Januskiewicz.
“We’re trying to ensure we’re all on the same page,” he said.
Overall, lifeguards were advised to use the call box first in an emergency, which gets an ambulance on the way. After that, someone should call the department to give further details, said Januskiewicz.
There was also a demonstration that centered on slightly different practices for the backboard, a rigid body split used for transporting patients that both agencies use. With Heidi Januskiewicz posing as a “patient,” lifeguards and EMTs demonstrated their skills.
The primary difference was a plastic-and-foam neck brace, known as a cervical collar, which EMTs are required to use for all cases that might involve spinal damage. State standards require EMTs to use the equipment, while the American Red Cross standards for lifeguards do not.
EMT Charles Dillon said lifeguard training centers on getting people out of the water, where the EMTs can take over. While ambulance personnel may need to add the collar, and the ambulance backboard has slightly different straps, the procedures have more in common than not, he said.
“The principles of backboarding don’t change,” he said.
The ambulance can be at the beach within a couple of minutes of getting a call, which means EMTS can often put patients on the backboard, added Jeremy Januskiewicz.
Lifeguards were also given a brief tour of the ambulance, in the event they may be asked to retrieve something from it in an emergency. With ages typically ranging from 15 to early 20s, Heidi Januskiewicz termed her staff young but eager to learn
“They definitely pick it up quickly, because they want to be here,” she said.
Optimally, the training session will be the only time lifeguards will need to use those procedures. Historically speaking, Jeremy Januskiewicz said, the beach is a safe place.
“We’ve lucked out,” he said. “As far as I can remember, we’ve never been down here for anything.”