Aquatic Safety Knowledge #
The Aquatic Safety Knowledge domain is one of the three domains in the Aquatic Safety Competencies taxonomy. It is the set of four competencies that define the components necessary for making safe decisions and managing risk in, on, and around aquatic environments. Understanding the importance of safety and learning how to cope with and manage risks are core competencies of injury prevention education programs. Observing the conditions of the surrounding environment, assessing the abilities of oneself and others, developing positive attitudes and values about safety, and having an awareness of how emotions impact judgement all combine to provide individuals with the knowledge essential to making safe and rational decisions.
Safety Competency #
Safety Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to promote safe behavior and make safe choices. It requires the intrinsic ability to understand the concept of safety and a possession of positive attitudes and values that place a priority on safety. Affective abilities associated with this competency include the willingness to listen during discussions regarding safety, appreciating the effects that safety precautions have on oneself and others, and incorporating consistent behaviors that promote safety and well-being into one’s lifestyle. Cognitive abilities include being able to comprehend the concept of safety, knowing the benefits of safety precautions and the dynamic between those precautions and dangers, and understanding how to behave in order to be safe in a given situation.
Safety Competency is dependent on an internal value system that places significance, or worth, on the safety of both oneself and others. Early development is often seen as a willingness, or positive attitude, towards following rules and respecting the safe behaviors one is told to do. Attitudes are closely linked to knowledge, so as an individual learns about dangers, cause and effect, and about precautions that can minimize or prevent harm, their attitude and desire towards participating in safety behaviors may shift from obedience and extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. Values are deeply set principles and beliefs that are more related to experiences and emotions than to knowledge. The presence of positive examples, role models, and the reinforcement of positive behaviors all aid in the development of Safety Competency by helping to instil values and create a value system that respects the importance of safety.
The personal attitudes and internal value system an individual has regarding safety influences their choices before and during situations that involve risk, and well developed values will present as consistent behaviors over time. Due to this, the collection of attitudes and values which are a part of Safety Competency tend to be applicable well beyond the scope of aquatic safety, and influence behaviors and choices that deal with safety not just in aquatic environments, but other environments as well.
An individual's attitudes, values, and beliefs regarding safety in general determine the way they will approach and interact with aquatic environments. The development of this competency produces a core set of strong beliefs and guiding principles regarding aquatic safety, while simultaneously empowering individuals to promote safe behaviors and avoid risk for their own benefit and for the benefit of others.
Risk Competency #
Risk Competency is the knowledge, skill, and experience necessary to understand, analyze, and assess the risks of aquatic environments, and to be able to cope with risk by applying risk-management strategies. Cognitive abilities associated with this competency include problem solving, analyzing options, and determining how best to avoid or reduce risks in a given situation. Affective abilities include responding to stimuli and situations in a calm manner and an awareness of how emotions can affect decision making.
Risk Competency is developed by increasing an awareness of risk and learning to identify risks in aquatic environments. It is further developed by practicing the assessment and judgement of risk and applying risk-management strategies to avoid, mitigate, and/or accept risks, especially in simulated survival activities. Becoming more proficient with Risk Competency, more so than any other competency, is dependent on the other predominantly cognitive competencies. For example, understanding the potential hazards of an environment and the understanding of one’s own capabilities (and the capabilities of those in one's care) are core principles of Local Knowledge Competency and Personal Assessment Competency, respectively.
Risk Competency is relevant for both situation avoidance and situation recovery. To avoid dangerous situations, it is important to have both an understanding of personal capacity and limitations, and be able to identify hazards in the environment. The risk-competent individual is able to assess the risk of hazards and analyze options based on personal capacity to determine the best course of action. If an emergency situation occurs, and the need to react arises, the ability to remain calm, problem solve, and devise a plan of action is required. While applying other skills, such as swimming towards a safe location, the risk-competent individual continues to monitor the situation and surroundings to determine how best to avoid or reduce further risks.
Due to the inherent dangers of water, risk is inherently part of every interaction with aquatic environments. In response to this, proficiency with Risk Competency reduces the risk of drowning and injury by ensuring individuals, or individuals in one’s care, are equipped to deal with both expected and unexpected dangers in and around aquatic environments.
Local Knowledge Competency #
Local Knowledge Competency is the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to identify and understand aquatic hazards found in one's immediate environment or in an environment one intends to interact with. Cognitive abilities associated with this competency include recognizing specific conditions and hazards and recalling information about the potential dangers involved.
It is commonly developed through discussions and presentation of information on varied environments and their associated risks, but it can also be developed through observing in person and/or physically experiencing real or simulated hazards and conditions. Because of the diverse nature of aquatic environments, knowing the risks present in one location or associated with a set of conditions often does not translate to knowing the risks of another location or different set of conditions.
Local Knowledge Competency for open-water environments includes both the knowledge of an overall geographical area and an understanding of the immediate surroundings. Having knowledge of hazards that are commonly found in a geographical area is crucial for being able to identify and judge the risk in a specific location. Examples include knowing how currents work, understanding the behavior of waves, and the mechanism of rip currents. Equally important for being able to identify and judge the risk in a specific location is an understanding of that immediate location and its features. Examples of this at a beach or shoreline may include understanding where the wave impact zone is, being aware of the type of terrain under the surface of the water (e.g., sand, rocks, reefs), and knowing where the dropoff to deeper water is.
Local Knowledge Competency for closed-water environments includes the knowledge and understanding of the physical attributes and features of a given structure. The combination of designated entry and exit points, varied water depth, the position of stationary equipment, and rules are unique to each location. Identifying site specific attributes and features are necessary to safely interact with fixed structures.
Additionally, locations, conditions, and their hazards can change over both short and long periods of time. For open-water environments instances of this include tide level changes, seasonal freezing and thawing, shifting sandbars, and debris moved by currents. For closed-water environments, such as a public pool, examples may include chemical levels, organization or density of patrons in the water, and the schedule of guarded vs unguarded hours. The local-knowledge-competent individual is aware of potential landscape and situational changes when identifying hazards and risks, and understands that hazards may need to be reevaluated and/or reidentified over time.
Local knowledge does not only apply to natural or physical hazards, but to other aspects of both open-water and closed-water locations as well. Awareness of where lifeguards are stationed, the boundaries of a designated swimming area, boat traffic patterns, and familiarity with where information or warnings may be posted are all components of possessing knowledge of an area.
By developing Local Knowledge Competency, individuals are able to identify and understand the dangers of hazards in their immediate environment and in environments they intend to interact with. This can reduce their risk of drowning and other aquatic injuries through the ability to make informed decisions both prior to and while engaging with aquatic environments.
Personal Assessment Competency #
Personal Assessment Competency is the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for an individual to understand and accurately assess their own abilities and limitations, and the abilities and limitations of those in their care. Cognitive abilities associated with this competency include analyzing and evaluating the skills, capabilities, and competence of both oneself and others. Affective abilities include recognizing that peer pressure, pride, and strong emotions such as fear can influence judgement and one's ability to assess.
Personal Assessment Competency is developed by comparing the perceived assessment of abilities with a real and practical assessment of those abilities. There are countless possibilities where this can occur, but a simple example is when an individual judges if they are capable of swimming to the other side of a pool and then attempts to swim that distance. Another example may be a fisherman assessing the skills of his crew and then heading out in stormy conditions. Development of this competency requires perceived and real assessment in both closed and open-water environments; in various scenarios and conditions, such as varying depths, wearing clothing, waves, and currents; and of oneself and others.
Honest and realistic self-assessment is a required component of Personal Assessment Competency. Performing a skill once does not mean it is executable in all circumstances and conditions. Equally, skills and maneuvers that have never been considered or attempted may be feasible under the right conditions. An individual proficient in Personal Assessment Competency is able to make accurate self-estimations of what they are able and unable to do based upon previous experiences and knowledge, even in conditions that are new or not commonly encountered. The personal-assessment-competent individual is also able to evaluate the capabilities of others, especially ones in their care. Encouraging others to remain in environments that are safe not only reduces the risk to others but also reduces risk to self, such as risk that may be incurred by having to provide assistance in the case of a rescue.
By developing Personal Assessment Competence, individuals become more aware of their skill and ability levels and of their limitations relative to current conditions and extraneous factors. As a result, individuals become better able to gauge their personal level of risk in aquatic situations. They are further able to reduce risk to self and others by understanding the abilities and limitations of those around them and by helping to keep themselves and others in environments appropriate to their ability levels.