Experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of lifeguards toward lifeguard involvement in flood mitigation and response

Introduction: Flooding causes significant mortality and morbidity, with impacts expected to increase with climate change. Ensuring adequate country-level flood mitigation and response capacity is key. Lifeguards, traditionally used for drowning prevention, may represent an additional workforce for flood emergency response.

Methods: Through an anonymous, online survey, we explored experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of a convenience sample of surf lifeguards from Australia and England towards lifeguards’ involvement in flood response. Respondents were recruited via Surf Life Saving Australia and Great Britain and had prior training in flood rescue. Analysis comprised descriptive statistics and thematic coding of free-text responses.

Results: Forty-four responses were received (93.2% male, 34.1% aged 50–59 years; 61.4% from Australia; 61.4% with ≥16 years lifesaving experience). Twenty-nine respondents (65.9%) self-reported having previously responded to flooding, 15 of which responded prior to receiving flood training. Lifeguards commonly reported being involved in the flood response phase (n = 28). Respondents identified rescue skills (n = 43; 97.7%), awareness of water conditions (n = 40; 90.9%), and radio communication protocols (n = 40; 90.9%) as relevant in a flood scenario. Respondents broadly agreed lifeguards were an asset in flood response due to transferrable skills, including to bolster existing capacity. However, respondents noted need for greater recognition, for involvement earlier in flood response and for flood-specific training and equipment prior to deployment.

Discussion & Conclusions: Lifeguards represent a willing and able workforce to support flood mitigation and response, some of whom are alread being tasked with such work. Provision of flood-specific training and equipment are vital, as is addressing interoperability tensions

Citation: Peden AE, Mayhew A, Baker SD. Experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of lifeguards from Australia and the United Kingdom toward lifeguard involvement in flood mitigation and response. 2022;76:103013. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2022.103013