Reach and Throwing Assists

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Reach and Throwing assists are related to the topic of Lifesaving and are methods of helping rescue someone struggling or unconscious in the water.

Reach Assists

This type of rescue is only helpful if the drowning victim is within reach of the water's edge - such as a pool's edge.  The goal is to "reach" out to a person in order to perform the rescue  You can perform reach assists with your arms or legs, or extend your reach with a long object such as a branch, paddle, towel, or shepherd's crook.   A shepherd's crook is a long pole with a curved hook on the end.  A person in trouble can grab it or it can be wrapped around an unconscious victim to save them.  Most pools should have one on the wall or at a lifeguard stand.


Arm and Leg

When performing a reaching assist, keep your body low and lean back to avoid being pulled into the water.   Lie face down on the edge of the pool or dock.  Spread your legs to maintain a stable position. Do not extend yourself beyond a strong position of good balance; if you lean over too far, you'll fall into the water.   Do not attempt to perform a reaching assist while standing. This puts you in a precarious position, and you'll likely fall into the water.

Reach toward the victim and hold out your hand.  Inch as far over the water as you can while maintaining a good hold on the solid edge of the pool or dock. You want to reach out your dominant hand, since you'll by using your strength to pull the victim to safety and call to the person to grab your wrist.   Make sure you tell the person to grab your wrist, and not your hand or fingers, since you could accidentally let go of the victim.



A towel assist is performed the same way, except that a towel is extended to the victim.  Once person grabs the towel, draw them in slowly and then perform a reach assist to bring them to safety.


Shepherd's Crook

Tell people to back away. Warn other people on the deck to stand away from the end of the stick in case it hits them. You don't want them to interfere with the rescue.


Stand slightly away from the edge of the deck. Brace your feet in case the victim pulls on the pole. Be sure you're far enough back that you don't risk getting pulled into the water.  Hold the hook where the drowning person can reach it.  Call to them loudly to grab the hook.  Slowly and carefully pull the victim to the side until he or she is close enough for you to use a reaching assist to pull him to the wall.

If the person is unable to grab it, dip the hooked part further into the water and wrap it around the person's torso, just below the armpits.  Make sure the hook is not near the person's neck, since this could lead to injury. Aim carefully as it is often difficult to see.  It's okay to rescue them by the waist or even the buttocks if it works.


Throwing Assists

Use a throwing assist to rescue someone beyond your reach. Throw to the victim a buoyant object tied to a line. He or she can grasp the object and be pulled to safety.  To perform a throwing assist, loosely coil the rope in your non-throwing hand.  Step on the end of the rope so that you do not accidentally throw the ring away.



With and underhand motion, throw the ring allowing the rope to uncoil freely from your non-throwing hand.  Aim near the victim, but try not to strike him directly.  A good goal is to throw the ring just past the victim, then pull it to him or her with the rope.  Pull the victim to shore once he or she has been reached.