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Example: Lifeguard Question

Apply the Rules of the ROAD

Ex. Lifeguard Question.  I'm not sure that lifeguard's matter; it's not that much risker without one.  Am I right?  Let's apply our Rules of the Road to this question:

1- Open mind.  We discuss it and come up with this question: "Are lifeguards effective?"  One of us has our doubts.  OK, let's find out. 

First we make sure we have the right words.  We find that both lifeguards (one word) and lifesaving (one word) come up in all of our searches.  

2- Anecdotes.  Story A: My daughter was a lifeguard at the YMCA and she worked hard.  Story B: My son's friend is a lifeguard this summer and he tells me that lifeguards party all the time and don't really pay attention on the job.  Neither helps us make a conclusion - they are only anecdotes so we move on.

3- Who are the authorities?  Those that train & certify lifeguards.  So we search (lifeguard or lifesaving) AND training AND certification.  And we find: United States Lifesaving Association, ex. Mid-Atlantic Chapter; Red Cross certifies lifeguards; State DEPs issue official lifeguard manuals; training & testing also from American Lifeguard Association. They are all proven, credible groups.

4- Need 3 sources: So we enter the groups, one at a time in the search box and include words like safer, "save lives," proven, or essential, and we find these facts and answers:

Are lifeguards effective?   Answer: Yes.  Here are three reports from three sources.

  1. Scientific evidence comes from the International Life Saving Federation which has conducted research for many years.  Although each year some 1.2 million people die by drowning, another 1.0 million are rescued by lifeguards.

  2. The USLA statistics over a ten-year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. United States Lifesaving Association.

  3. According to a research study, called Lifeguard Effectiveness (CDC, 2001), three-quarters of all drownings occur when beaches are unguarded.

       Center for Disease Control.

So the answer to our question, "Are lifeguards effective?" Yes!  Other facts or issues to pursue further:

  • 3,536 people die each year in the US from drowning.   CDC estimates are 100,000 lives saved by lifeguards each year.  

  • Due to lack of funding, in the 1990s, Michigan switched to a warning flag system only (without lifeguards) on their beaches; since 2010 there have been 816 deaths.  Acceptable toll?

  • Conflict in numbers.   ILSF has 1.2 drownings but WHO has 320,000 per year worldwide.  Why?

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