If you’re wanting to earn the Eagle-required Lifesaving merit badge, you’re in the right place! In this guide, I’ll be providing you with all of the answers that you’ll need to complete your merit badge worksheet and demonstrate essential Lifesaving skills.
You’ve reached part 2 of my ultimate guide to the Lifesaving merit badge! If you’re new to ScoutSmarts, you should first check out part 1 for the answers to requirements 1-8 of the Lifesaving MB.
If you’ve just come over from part one, congratulations! You’re halfway done. Once you finish the Lifesaving merit badge, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to rescue drowning victims and ensure a safe trip afloat! Give yourself a huge pat on the back for making it this far. 🙂
It’s time to get back into it! Take a minute to closely review and think through requirements 9-17 of the Lifesaving merit badge. Then, I’ll be providing you with some helpful explanations and videos so that you can master this essential safety skill! Enough said — let’s dive in!!
What are the Lifesaving Merit Badge Answers?
- Discuss with your counselor when it is appropriate to remove heavy clothing before attempting a swimming rescue. Remove street clothes in 20 seconds or less, enter the water, and approach a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore in deep water. Speak to the subject and use a nonbuoyant aid, such as a shirt or towel, to tow the subject to safety.
- Discuss with your counselor the importance of avoiding contact with an active subject and demonstrate lead-and-wait techniques.
- Perform the following nonequipment rescues for a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore. Begin in the water from a position near the subject. Speak to the subject to determine his or her condition and to provide instructions and encouragement.
–11a. Perform an armpit tow for a calm, responsive, tired swimmer resting with a back float.
–11b. Perform a cross-chest carry for an exhausted, responsive subject treading water.
- In deep water, show how to escape from a victim’s grasp on your wrist. Repeat for front and rear holds about the head and shoulders.
- Perform the following rescues for an unconscious practice subject at or near the surface 30 feet from shore. Use a proper entry and strong approach stroke. Speak to the subject and splash water on the subject to determine his or her condition before making contact. Quickly remove the victim from the water, with assistance if needed, and position for CPR.
–13a. Perform an equipment assist using a buoyant aid.
–13b. Perform a front approach and wrist tow.
–13c. Perform a rear approach and armpit tow.
- Discuss with your counselor how to respond if a victim submerges before being reached by a rescuer, and do the following
–14a. Recover a 10-pound weight in 8 to 10 feet of water using a feetfirst surface dive.
–14b. Repeat using a headfirst surface dive.
- Demonstrate management of a spinal injury to your counselor:
–15a. Discuss the causes, signs, and symptoms of a spinal injury.
–15b. Support a faceup subject in calm water of standing depth.
–15c. Turn a subject from a facedown to a faceup position in water of standing depth while maintaining support.
- Demonstrate knowledge of resuscitation procedure:
–16a. Describe how to recognize the need for rescue breathing and CPR.
–16b. Demonstrate CPR knowledge and skills, including rescue breathing, on a mannequin under the guidance of a current CPR/AED instructor trained by a nationally certified provider.
- With your counselor, discuss causes, prevention, and treatment of other injuries or illnesses that could occur while swimming or boating, including hypothermia, dehydration, heat-related illnesses, muscle cramps, sunburn, stings, and hyperventilation.
9) Discuss with your counselor when it is appropriate to remove heavy clothing before attempting a swimming rescue. Remove street clothes in 20 seconds or less, enter the water, and approach a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore in deep water. Speak to the subject and use a nonbuoyant aid, such as a shirt or towel, to tow the subject to safety.
When needing to perform a rescue, you may not always be in swimming gear. This is something to be prepared for! In some situations, you shouldn’t waste time removing your clothes before entering the water. In other cases, heavy clothing should be removed first. Here are a few scenarios:
- Rescue Aids: You may need to use your clothing as a rescue aid. This should only be done when there are no other aids available and only on a conscious victim. If buoyant aids are available, use those instead.
- Heavy Clothes: By going in the water after the victim, you’re putting yourself at risk. Wearing heavy clothes that could weigh you down adds to that risk. Bigger clothes like jackets and jeans will weigh significantly more once wet, so take off any clothing that will become waterlogged and heavy when making a “go” rescue.
- Time: Speed is crucial in a rescue situation. You should always be able to remove your clothing in 20 seconds or less. If you can’t do that, just remove the heaviest items you’re wearing in that time frame and go after the victim.
Removing bulky clothes quickly is extremely important in a “go” rescue. Luckily, LifeHacker has a great guide on how to remove your clothing as swiftly as possible for a water rescue. Practice the steps you see there a few times before demonstrating the skill to your counselor.
How To Safely Rescue a Drowning Victim
Once you’ve taken off your bulky clothes and swum over to the victim, it’s time to perform the rescue! Following the instructions below will be the safest method for both you and the victim to make it out of the dangerous situation:
- First, let the drowning person know you’re here to help and you’ll be throwing them a line.
- Ask them to relax, and reassure them that they’re safe now.
- Then, cast your aid out within an arm’s reach of them.
- Be sure to keep your distance, as a drowning person may be frenzied and could pull you under too.
- Once they grab onto the aid (typically a shirt or towel), start swimming back to shore, towing the victim behind you.
- Using an elementary backstroke with light kicking is a great and energy-efficient way to swim while towing another person.
That’s really all there is to it! By avoiding dangerous mistakes like jumping in while wearing bulky clothing, or getting too close to the drowning person, I’m sure you’ll be able to confidently perform a successful water rescue. 🙂
10) Discuss with your counselor the importance of avoiding contact with an active subject and demonstrate lead-and-wait techniques.
The reason a “go” rescue should be your last resort is that it’s the most dangerous. When you go after a victim in the water, you must understand that there are risks involved. Active subjects are the most dangerous for a couple of reasons:
- When someone panics in the water, they often lose their ability to reason and flail their arms and legs with no regard for anyone around them.
- If you were to come into contact with them, you may be kicked, punched, or even grabbed and pulled under as the victim attempts to use you as a flotation device.
- If they cause you to begin to drown as well, that increases the number of people needing to be rescued, and lowers the chances that each of you will receive aid fast enough. 🙁
Because “go” rescues are so dangerous, if you don’t have aids while rescuing a conscious victim you should use the lead-and-wait method. The lead-and-wait method involves you calming down the victim and talking them through how to swim back to shore.
How the Lead-and-Wait Method Works: For this method, you’ll still need to go into the water — just keep your distance. Calmly encourage the victim to doggy paddle towards you with their head above water, while correcting their movements to ensure they stay afloat.
If they’re unable to make it back to shore using the lead-and-wait techniques, still don’t engage unless you think it’s safe and that they won’t pull you under. Instead, wait for the victim to settle down, and then perform an unconscious rescue (which we’ll be covering in req 13!).
11) Perform the following nonequipment rescues for a conscious practice subject 30 feet from shore. Begin in the water from a position near the subject. Speak to the subject to determine his or her condition and to provide instructions and encouragement.
–11a) Perform an armpit tow for a calm, responsive, tired swimmer resting with a back float.
–11b) Perform a cross-chest carry for an exhausted, responsive subject treading water.
For this requirement, you’ll need to learn and demonstrate two different contact tows. These may take a few tries to get right, but practice makes perfect! Remember to assess the victim’s condition first to ensure they’re calm and won’t pull you under.
I’d also highly recommend wearing goggles when first learning these skills, as that’ll help you to get the hand positioning right and feel more comfortable being underwater. Once you gain confidence performing these rescues, only then should the goggles come off!
Performing an Armpit Tow
The first tow you’ll need to perform is an armpit tow. Tows and other rescue techniques are a bit tricky to explain in words, so here’s a great video (0:48) showing a single armpit tow, as demonstrated by a couple of U.S. Marines:
This and the following videos provide a great walkthrough on how to perform these rescues properly. You’ll probably still need some practice though to use this move correctly in real life, so work with your counselor and another willing Scout to visit a pool to get some practice in.
Performing a Cross-Chest Carry
The second tow you’ll need to perform to complete this requirement is a cross-chest carry. This tow requires a bit more precision than the last one, so be prepared to try it a few times before you get it right. Here’s a great video (0:36) demonstration of the cross-chest carry:
Basically, in using a cross-chest carry, you’re trying to tow the victim to safety while using a modified sidestroke. Also, be sure to pay special attention that you’re getting the scissor-kick move right, as you don’t want to get tangled up with the victim.
These techniques can be a little tricky at first, especially for Scouts who’ve never before trained in water rescues. However, I know you can do it! The most important things to remember are to focus on getting air (for both you and the victim) and never panic. 😉
12) In deep water, show how to escape from a victim’s grasp on your wrist. Repeat for front and rear holds about the head and shoulders.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the victim will be panicking. This is why “go” rescues are so dangerous — a panicking victim can cause an unprepared rescuer to drown as well. However, that’s why we learn rescue “escapes” for saving a drowning victim!
Escaping a Victim’s Grasp on Your Wrist
The first escape you’ll learn is the wrist escape. When getting close to a victim, they may latch onto your wrist. That’s why a non-contact rescue is preferred, whenever possible. If a victim grabs your wrist in a panic, you’ll need to force them off. Here’s a video (0:37) demonstrating how to do just that:
While it may seem heartless to force the victim off, remember that this is for both of your sakes. Once they settle down you’ll have a better chance of rescuing them so, if worst comes to worst, you’ll need to wait for a frenzied victim to fall unconscious before towing them to safety.
Safety Note: When performing any of these escapes for your counselor, make sure your partner is a really good swimmer since you will be wrestling them underwater.
Front and Rear Head Hold Escapes
The next two escapes are quite similar, but both are crucial to learn. The first of these is a front head hold escape. If a victim grabs around your neck and forces your head under, you should submerge yourself to get them off. Check out the video (0:49) to see a front head hold escape in action:
The last escape you need to learn is the rear head hold. This is similar to the front head hold but used when the victim is hanging onto your back. Make sure to take these escapes slowly so that you don’t surprise or hurt your practice partner. Here (0:58) it is in action:
And there you have it! You now not only know how to perform a water rescue, but also how to escape if a frenzied victim grabs ahold of you. Great work, Scout! These skills are the foundations of lifesaving, so we’ll be expanding on them in the next requirements. 🙂
13) Perform the following rescues for an unconscious practice subject at or near the surface 30 feet from shore. Use a proper entry and strong approach stroke. Speak to the subject and splash water on the subject to determine his or her condition before making contact. Quickly remove the victim from the water, with assistance if needed, and position for CPR.
–13a) Perform an equipment assist using a buoyant aid.
–13b) Perform a front approach and wrist tow.
–13c) Perform a rear approach and armpit tow.
It’s once again time to show what you’ve learned! For this requirement, you’ll need a partner, your counselor, and a pool to practice in. For each of these rescues, first, determine the victim’s condition by splashing water on them. Remember everything you’ve learned so far, and you’ll do great!
Performing an Equipment Assist Using a Buoyant Aid
The first rescue you’ll need to perform is one using a buoyant aid like a life jacket, boogie board, or floatie. The key is to position the unconscious victim atop the aid, on their backs, and tow them to shore. Be sure to hold them in place so that they don’t roll off, face-first, back into the water.
Performing a Front Approach and Wrist Tow
Next, we’ll utilize the wrist tow. This is not a tow that we’ve discussed yet, so get ready to learn it now! In the wrist tow, you’re basically pulling the victim by the wrist through the water while they’re positioned on their backs with their head afloat. Check out the video (0:45) below on how to perform this tow:
In my opinion, this is the easiest tow to get wrong, so make sure to practice it thoroughly! Ensure the victim’s head is above water and that your grip on their wrist is strong enough that you can orient them in the correct position. For this variation, also make sure to approach from the front.
Performing a Rear Approach and Armpit Tow
Finally, you just need to demonstrate a rear approach (which is approaching from behind) and use an armpit tow to finish off this section. For a refresher on the armpit tow, see the video in requirement 11. Also, all of these tows take time to perform, so I’d suggest finding a partner who’s good at swimming. 😛
Once you’ve made it out of the water, safely pull the victim onto dry land. Then, lay them flat on their backs in the ready position for CPR. Many unconscious victims will require resuscitation, but don’t worry — I’ll teach you all about that in requirement 16!
14) Discuss with your counselor how to respond if a victim submerges before being reached by a rescuer, and do the following:
–14a) Recover a 10-pound weight in 8 to 10 feet of water using a feetfirst surface dive.
–14b) Repeat using a headfirst surface dive.
A submerged victim is an extremely scary thing. This means that the victim is in dire condition and needs immediate rescue. When rescuing victim that has submerged, you’ll need to pull them to the surface. To practice this, you’ll be diving after a 10-pound weight.
When a victim has submerged just below the surface, you should be able to pull them up with a wrist tow. If they’ve sunk any lower, you’ll need to use a surface dive to get below them and push them up to the surface. At surface level, they should float and you can begin taking them back to land.
Recovering a 10-pound Weight Using a Feetfirst Surface Dive
There are two surface dives you can use for this rescue: the feet-first and headfirst surface dives. The feet-first dive is definitely the easiest, so we’ll do that one first. All you need to do is propel yourself to the bottom feet-first as shown in this helpful video (0:10):
In the video, you can see the person pushes himself up out of the water by pulling his hands to his sides. Immediately afterward, as the momentum of bobbing brings him downward, he pushes his hands up toward the water in a clapping motion, which helps him descend.
Recovering a 10-pound Weight Using a Headfirst Surface Dive
The headfirst dive is a little more difficult. You’ll need to roll yourself forward in the water and then propel yourself using your feet. Some may find this one easier than the feet-first dive, but it’s mostly up to preference. Here is a great demonstration (0:20) of this dive:
Getting a 10-pound weight may seem a little difficult, but with enough practice, I know you can do it! These are important skills to learn, and you’re well on your way to becoming a great help on any aquatic outing! 🙂
15) Demonstrate management of a spinal injury to your counselor:
–15a) Discuss the causes, signs, and symptoms of a spinal injury.
Spinal injuries are extremely serious. A serious injury to the spine can lead to permanent paralysis in some parts of the body, or even death if left untreated. When someone has suffered a spinal injury, there are a few telltale signs that you should look out for:
- Floating to the surface
- Inability to swim
- Inability to grasp tightly
Spinal injuries are often caused by diving into shallow water and hitting one’s head or neck. This is why diving restrictions are necessary for some places, and why swimming in clear water is so important. To prevent these types of injuries, avoid doing flips or other erratic movements in unsafe environments.
15b) Support a faceup subject in calm water of standing depth.
If you see a possible spinal injury victim, try to keep their neck straight and immobile. This will prevent the injury from worsening while help arrives. To do this, hold your arms spread under the victim’s back, keeping their face out of the water. Keep them still, floating there, until medical professionals arrive.
15c) Turn a subject from a facedown to a faceup position in water of standing depth while maintaining support.
If the victim is face down, you want to flip them over without worsening any injury. You can do this by utilizing a head splint. In a head splint, the victim needs to have their arms up by their ears so the head and neck can’t move. Once they’re in this position, carefully flip them over, as shown in this video (1:02).
Spinal injuries are scary and life-threatening, so don’t try to treat these by yourself. When moving someone with a spine injury, you can often unintentionally do more harm than good.
Wait for emergency medical support while keeping the victim immobilized and calm until the professionals arrive and can safely handle treatment. Your main job is to talk with the victim, comfort them, and keep them responsive until trained help arrives.
16) Demonstrate knowledge of resuscitation procedures:
–16a) Describe how to recognize the need for rescue breathing and CPR.
CPR is something everyone should know how to perform, as it’s a life-saving skill that could come in handy in the most unexpected situations. In this requirement, we’ll go over when you should perform CPR and the technique you should use, based upon current guidelines.
The main thing to look for in someone who needs CPR is a lack of response. If you have a rescued victim that isn’t responding to shoulder taps or loud yelling, they need CPR. I actually have a full guide to CPR and rescue breaths, as it’s an important topic that can’t be covered in enough detail here. Check it out!
16b) Demonstrate CPR knowledge and skills, including rescue breathing, on a mannequin under the guidance of a current CPR/AED instructor trained by a nationally certified provider.
Once you’ve determined that CPR is necessary, it’s time to perform it. This is something that you likely can’t learn just by reading, so here’s a demonstration! Check out the following video (2:06) by the Red Cross on how to properly perform CPR:
Unless you’re already CPR certified, learning this vital skill can seem nerve-wracking and intimidating. That’s why I asked a friend of mine in the medical field to write a helpful how-to article on CPR and AED use! Seriously, check this guide out if you’re learning (or teaching!) CPR and rescue breaths.
You should practice this a few times before demonstrating it to your counselor. Also, knowing CPR is a requirement for the First Aid merit badge, so make sure to start your blue card for that one to get two requirements signed off in one! 😀
17) With your counselor, discuss causes, prevention, and treatment of other injuries or illnesses that could occur while swimming or boating, including hypothermia, dehydration, heat-related illnesses, muscle cramps, sunburn, stings, and hyperventilation.
You’ve finally reached the final requirement for the Lifesaving MB! What’s better, these injury preventions and treatments are also answers for the First Aid Merit Badge, so check out the link because I’ve covered them in more detail there! For just a quick rundown though, see the table below:
|Hypothermia||Cold weather boating or swimming activities are never a good idea. If you do go out in the cold, be extra careful to stay out of freezing water and try not to be damp after drying off, as you could get chilled if the wind picks up. |
If someone does fall into freezing water and gets hypothermia, remove any heavy wet clothing and wrap them in dry towels indoors. Try to heat them up with your body heat or anything warm on hand if you can’t get indoors fast.
|Dehydration||Drinking water is crucial when doing any outdoor activity. Bring plenty with you and make sure to drink throughout the day. If you or someone else is suffering from dehydration, get to a shaded area and provide them with plenty of room temperature water. Have them drink it slowly while resting, and not chug it all at once.|
|Heat-Related Illness||Dehydration can lead to other problems such as heatstroke. If you are participating in any outdoor activity, take breaks in the shade. If you or someone else is suffering from excessive sweating, red skin, and disorientation, get to shade and cool with wet towels.|
|Muscle Cramps||Muscle cramps occur sometimes while swimming. These can be pretty painful but are usually not life-threatening as long as the affected person does not panic and makes sure to stay afloat. Otherwise, panicking due to a cramp has caused people to drown in the past. To avoid cramps, drink lots of water, stretch beforehand, and take regular breaks.|
|Sunburn||We’ve probably all experienced sunburn, and it can be pretty annoying. Plus, having frequent sunburns can also increase your future risk of skin cancer, so avoid getting burnt when possible. To prevent sunburn, wear plenty of sunscreen and cover up any areas that could be affected. If you have a burn, cover it with cool, clean cloths and use aloe vera ointment.|
|Stings||There’s no great way to prevent stings. However, if a stinging insect lands on you, try to blow it off instead of slapping it, and it will be less likely to sting you. If you suffer from a sting, pull out the stinger with tweezers and disinfect the area. For a more serious sting or reaction, see help from a medical professional immediately.|
|Hyperventilation||Hyperventilation can happen because of panic or just by accident. When this happens, remove the affected person from the water, reassure them, and warm them up if they’re feeling chilled. Often, in a safe situation, sitting someone down and giving them a bit of food will help them out of a panicked state. If the hyperventilating person has asthma, immediately get them their inhaler.|
These types of injuries/illnesses are pretty common, especially during outings on the water. However, most are very treatable! By learning how to spot the early warning signs for each of these injuries or illnesses, you’ll be even better equipped to help.
On every outing, you should be sure to bring along a reliable first aid kit. I’d recommend the Monoki Survival First Aid Kit on Amazon (referral link) as it not only provides all of the medical equipment you’ll need but is also useful in survival situations, helping you be extra-prepared!
On your next troop outing, I challenge you to spot the early warning signs for one of these injuries and gently advise a fellow Scout about what they can do to prevent it. This could be as simple as sharing your water. With this last requirement done, you’re now practically a lifesaving expert! 😀
Congratulations on Finishing the Lifesaving Merit Badge!
We’re finally done I know this was quite a long badge, but it’s for sure one of the most important ones out there. Knowing lifesaving will give you more confidence and security on all of your future outings in water, and help you to be prepared for the worst!
If you found this post helpful, I’ve also written guides to all of the other Eagle-required merit badges. I’d definitely recommend checking out my comprehensive difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge if you haven’t seen it already!
Great work, Scout! You’ve just learned everything necessary to answer/demonstrate each of the requirements in your merit badge workbook and earn your Lifesaving merit badge! I hope you found my guide helpful and, until next time, I’m wishing you the best of luck in your Scouting journey. 🙂
(Click here to return to part 1 of my guide to the Lifesaving merit badge!)