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The ocean lifeguard drowning prevention paradigm: how and where do lifeguards intervene in the drowning process?
  1. William Koon1,
  2. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar2,3,
  3. Linda Quan3,4
  1. 1 Department of Global Health, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA
  2. 2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA
  3. 3 Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
  4. 4 Emergency Department, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to William Koon, Department of Global Health, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA 98105, USA; wakoon{at}


Drowning is a global health problem that can be addressed with multiple strategies including utilisation of lifeguards in recreational swim areas. However, few studies have described lifeguard prevention activities. We conducted a retrospective analysis using lifeguard activity data collected in real time with a Computer-Aided-Dispatch (CAD) system to characterise the nature of lifeguard primary and secondary drowning prevention at a popular ocean beach in California. Preventative actions constituted the majority (232 065/423 071; 54.8%) of lifeguard activities, while rescues represented 1.9%. Most preventative actions and rescues occurred during summer months, weekends and afternoons. Statistically significant geographical clusters of preventative actions were identified all over the beach, while rescue clusters were primarily restricted to two sites. Using the most reliable and valid collection system to date, these data show spatial and temporal patterns for ocean lifeguard provision of primary prevention as well as secondary drowning prevention (rescue).

  • Drowning
  • Lifeguard
  • Rescue
  • Prevention

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  • Contributors WK and LQ led study conceptualisation with input from AR. WK was involved with data acquisition from Newport Beach Lifeguards and provided GIS analysis. WK, AR and LQ were involved in data analysis. WK and LQ drafted the paper. AR reviewed it and suggested changes. All authors approved the final document.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Unpublished data from the study reside with WK, who would share them with permission from the Newport Beach Fire Department-Marine Safety Division.