Study of Shallow Water Blackout Prevention Policies at 73 Pools Garners Negative Results

A Study Conducted by The Redwoods Group.


During the summer of 2016 The Redwood’s team designed a study of aquatic safety procedures to identify any potential gaps in Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) prevention practices and rule enforcement. The study spanned 73 YMCA associations in 17 states and the District of Columbia. At each observation, the team’s procedures included documentation across four categories:


  • Pool environment
  • Lifeguard behaviour
  • SWB simulation
  • Staff interviews


The study found SWB pool signage was inconsistent and sometimes nonexistent. Only 51.8% of pools displayed a sign related to prolonged breath holding. Of the pools that had signs, only 59.6% of the signs were both unobstructed and differentiated from their surroundings.

This study also revealed that even when SWB-related rules may be known, they may not be enforced consistently, if at all. 

Though 31.2% of lifeguards interviewed showed awareness of SWB-related rules, only 7.5% enforced those rules.

This study revealed meaningful gaps in the awareness and enforcement of Shallow Water Blackout prevention procedures in YMCA pools. To close the Awareness Gap and Action Gap, YMCAs should clarify and promote rules regarding Shallow Water Blackout and equip lifeguards with tools to simplify and maximize enforcement.

For more details on this study click here.

What precautions do your local aquatics managers take to prevent SWB from happening in their pool?  Please reach out and let us know. Send photos, or request a free poster or two to give to your pool manager. We need your help to prevent more senseless tragedies. Email [email protected] for more information on how you can help.