July 1, 2016

Doubt It or Drill It?

By Dr. Christopher Thurber 

This time of year, I'm in high gear. I'll visit 22 camps in the 35 days between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Everyone needs a buddy at the pool and on the waterfront.

The airport lounges, rental cars and stalled traffic get old fast, but the interaction with directors and staff is endlessly invigorating. Their questions force me to think.

This year, more than in any of the previous 15 seasons, I've responded to questions about the waterfront.

Should water skiers wear helmets like the wake boarders do? Should campers be allowed to tube before taking a swim check? Does each lifeguard need a pair of goggles? Should rescuers cut PFDs off with trauma shears before back-boarding a boater with a spinal injury in deep water?

These questions are all up for debate, but my answers--drawn from my 25 years as Camp Belknap's waterfront director--are: No, unless you're doing jumps and tricks. No, unless you want to incur liability. Yes, ideally, especially if you wear contact lenses. And no, it only causes unnecessary movement.

Two surprising questions that I've been asked this summer are: Do you conduct a Lost Bather Drill each time your buddy count is off? Should our campers swim in buddy pairs?

I find these questions surprising because--unlike the questions in paragraph four--I didn't think these were up for debate. Apparently they are, so allow me to end that debate.

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