A beach drag method of removal from water is used in shallow water on a sloping shore or beach, or a zero depth exit at a pool. It works well with a heavy or unconscious victim. Do not use a beach drag if you suspect the victim has a head, neck or back injury.
The Beach Drag is described the 2017 American Red Cross Lifeguarding Manual on page 190:
- “Stand behind the victim and grasp him or her under the armpits, supporting the victim’s head as much as possible with the forearms. Let the rescue tube trail behind, being careful not to trip on the tube or line. If another lifeguard is available to assist, each of you should grasp the victim under the armpit and support the head.
- Walk backward and drag the victim to the shore. Use your legs, not your back.
- Remove the victim completely from the water, then assess the victim and provide appropriate care”
The International Life Saving Federation (ILSF) has some additional notes on why lifeguards do it this way.
“For centuries, people have believed that water should be drained from the lungs of a drowning victim as an essential part of the effort to revive them. In the 18th century, this was the main reason given for placing the victim in a head-down position (HD) on sloping beaches. This position was subsequently adopted by many lifesavers throughout the world.”
But all recent research shows that trying to drain water is not necessary, and a waste of time, as massive amounts of water are usually not aspirated “Massive aspiration of water is seldom observed in humans who arrive at the hospital alive… Approximately 85% of people who die in the water and a much larger number who are resuscitated aspirate 22ml/kg or less and only about 15% of those who die aspirate an amount greater than this.”
… A head-down position is more likely to cause vomiting than a “head in the same level as the trunk – HT position”… head-down “increases the likelihood of regurgitation of gastric content (vomit). Presence of vomit in the airway can result in aspiration of vomit by the victim. It obstructs resuscitation efforts. The presence of vomit can be discouraging to rescuers, particularly those using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation”
And the ILSF reminds us to move the victim far enough up the beach to be away from moving waves.
If the first rescuer needs to do CPR they should be in a position with their back to the water. If they move to the uphill side of the victim they are more likely to fall over the victim as they do compressions.
You can read more at the International Life Saving Federation Medical Policy Statement Positioning of Patients on a Sloping Beach:
and click on positioning a patient on a sloping beach
At a steep beach it is often policy for a rescuer of an unconscious victim to do a partial u-turn and place the victim parallel to the shore line, rather than pulling them directly up onto the shore.
If we don’t, the victim’s head could be quite higher than their feet and any CPR you would do would not work very well at getting oxygen to the brain when working against gravity.
A 2012 Red Cross waterfront lifeguard skills video shows it happening this way but does not talk about it.