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April 14, 2017

FGCU makes splash in Red Cross safety materials

Florida Gulf Coast University’s impact in aquatics is well documented by the success of its championship women’s swimming and diving program, but competitive swimmers and divers aren’t the only Eagles doing the school proud in the pool.

If you happen to take the official American Red Cross lifeguard training and certification courses in the next five years, the images you’ll see in the videos, textbooks and other educational materials are likely to be of FGCU swim venues, and many of the “actor” lifeguards and rescue victims you’ll see are FGCU students and staff. Most prominently featured are: Emma Reeners, assistant director of aquatics; and Emily Aron, graduate assistant for aquatics, who’s working on a master’s in public administration.

Emma Reeners (in chair), Florida Gulf Coast University’s assistant director of aquatics; and Emily Aron, graduate assistant for aquatics, are featured in the new American Red Cross lifeguard-training videos and textbooks.

That’s because the Red Cross dispatched a video and photo crew to the FGCU campus for five days between semesters in May 2016 to do its five-year update of lifeguard training videos and manuals that are used nationally and internationally. Featuring the scenic backdrops of our beautiful waterfront, the resort-style South Village pool and our two-pool, state-of-the-art Aquatics Complex — along with the expertise and “acting” talents of Reeners, Aron and other FGCU volunteers — the Red Cross dipped heavily into the watery resources we have on campus to create the virtual classroom through which future lifeguards will learn their craft.

The new Red Cross lifeguard materials produced at FGCU have just been released, almost a year after they were filmed. Unfortunately, the only way most of us will ever get to see those materials is if we decide to pursue lifeguard certification and/or employment under an umbrella atop a three-legged watch stand wearing shades, a hat and sunscreen while clutching a red American Red Cross rescue buoy.

Still, the honor of being picked as the shoot location for the filming of widely used life-saving educational materials — a distinction FGCU earned after a site inspection by Red Cross officials following a recommendation by a district representative — is yet another boost to the university’s growing national and international reputation.

“They liked that we could provide a waterfront location along with competition and leisure pools. Those three facilities in one place made us a frontrunner,” Reeners said. “The only thing we couldn’t offer was a water-park site, so they filmed those scenes up at Treasure Island in Tampa. The CPR video and a couple of the rescues they filmed over at the SoVi pool in particular came out just beautiful.”

Each demonstration usually took three or four takes, but some of the easier moves were nailed in one or two tries.

“We spent a good portion of the first day learning the new skills, the new rescue techniques,” Aron said. “We got the very first access to the new materials they’re teaching.”

Emily Aron checks out the CPR video that was filmed at the South Village pool.

While Reeners said most of the updated instruction amounts to “rescue tweaks based on the latest science,” she said the biggest change in the new lifeguarding manual is with “backboarding,” or moving a victim with what’s known as a long spine board, a medical device used for the immobilization and transportation of patients with suspected spinal injuries.

“The new theory is that the spinal damage is already done, so the goal is to get them safe, comfortable and out of the water as quickly as possible while minimizing movement,” Reeners said. “Before, it was more like stabilize, but don’t move them.”

Since the Aquatics Complex is actually a partnership between FGCU and Lee County and is open to county residents, the Red Cross had to rent the facility just like any other outside entity because the complex had to be closed to the public for a Sunday-through-Thursday filming window. “We gave them a good deal because they’re a nonprofit, plus it’s great exposure for us,” Reeners said.

While that exposure is limited to a water classroom where most of us will never actually see FGCU’s close-up in the lifeguard-training spotlight, we know it’s there and making a difference in the spirit of The FGCU Effect — inspiring those who inspire others. In this case, the effect is huge: Helping save lives on the water.