Bondi Rescue Series 1 Episode 4: A major medical emergency

Bondi Rescue Series 1 Episode 4: A major medical emergency
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A group of senior lifeguards just happen to be standing at the edge of the water for a photo shoot when they’re told there’s been a man found floating lifeless in the surf. The lifeguards swing into action to bring back to consciousness a young Japanese student who is clinically dead when they bring him out of the water. Summary by Janet Bell.

Japanese student Taka Hiro Ono, owes his life to the fact that so many experienced members of the lifeguard team happened to be at the beach that day for a photo shoot. This particular program could be used as a manual for what to do when someone has been found unconscious in the water. The lifeguards swing into action. They begin resuscitation and applying the defibrillators (paddles) to get the young man’s heart restarted. They are at the point of despair when suddenly he responds. It’s a terrific moment for them and for the audience.

The lifeguards at Bondi Beach are an elite squad who can’t believe they are paid for doing this work they love. Bondi is probably the best known beach in Australia with 2.5 million visitors every year. The work of the lifeguards ranges from finding lost children to saving people from drowning, drug overdoses and dealing with the pain of blue bottle stings. There are perverts and thieves thrown in for good measure. The lifeguards have all been elite athletes, usually surf-board riders or swimmers, but there’s an ex-professional footballer among them too.

The series is character based with different personalities emerging within this highly competitive group. Cory represents experience and Reidy is the new boy on the block. Cory is very doubtful about the staying power of this virtually untried new lifeguard. Reidy, for his part, is determined to come through any test Cory throws his way with humour and good spirit. This competition and conflict keeps the series interesting and it is cleverly structured to ensure that the audience comes back each week to see how the lifeguards are progressing.

Title Synopsis

A young man is found lifeless in the water on a surprisingly calm day. With no breath and no pulse, a frantic resuscitation begins.

Title Curator’s Notes

In each program, the lifeguards are seen dealing with lost children, blue bottle stings or a pervert on the beach but this week there’s the potential tragedy of a near drowning. Suddenly we understand why the lifeguards stay at peak fitness and keep up-to-date with their rescue techniques.

For several weeks during the summer of 2006, the filmmakers had seven cameras at Bondi Beach from dawn to sunset each weekend, filming the reality of Australia’s most popular beach where as many as 40,000 people can be on the sand at any one time. The series came about when Michael Cordell was approached by a young filmmaker, Ben Davies, who had himself been a lifeguard at Bondi. Davies persuaded the lifeguards and the local council who employ them that such a reality series would be an important adjunct to teaching people about beach safety.

Notes by Janet Bell

Education Notes

This clip shows reality television footage of lifeguards conducting an emergency resuscitation on Bondi Beach in Sydney. In the first scene lifeguards are posing for a promotional shoot when a Japanese student, Takahiro Ono, is noticed floating unconscious in the surf. The lifeguards spring into action. Placing Ono on the beach, they start the resuscitation procedure. A portable defibrillator is attached. After one shock the defibrillator advises that a check for a pulse should be made and, if none is present, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) should begin.

Educational value points

  • This 2006 footage provides a dramatic illustration of the techniques used in the initial stages of resuscitating a clinically dead person. In case Ono’s airways were blocked, the lifeguards rolled him onto his side. They then carried out chin and backward head tilts. After failing to detect a pulse in various parts of his body, they began CPR using a bag-valve mask to ventilate his lungs and chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute to restore blood circulation.

  • The automated external defibrillator (AED) – a portable device used to try to restore a normal heart rhythm to people whose hearts have stopped or have developed arrhythmia – is a crucial part of emergency resuscitation. It basically consists of adhesive electrode pads that collect information about the heart’s rhythm and deliver a defibrillating shock if required, and a microprocessor to interpret the rhythm and prompt the operators about what to do next.
  • An electric shock as substantial as that of an AED is dangerous to anyone, whether they are a drowning victim or a person in physical contact with the patient, and the clip shows the safety precautions necessary when delivering a defibrillating shock. Lifeguards are trained in the operation of AEDs and they are seen here carrying out the basic precautions of moving the victim up the beach out of contact with water and advising everyone to stand clear.
  • The clip exemplifies many of the techniques used in reality television to increase the dramatic impact of unfolding events. Footage from the handheld camera, including close-ups of the resuscitation, positions viewers as rescuers racing to the scene and saving Ono’s life. Most of the audio is live sound, interspersed with voice-over scripted in short sharp sentences to heighten suspense and provide just enough information for viewers to know what is happening.
  • Unlike the surf 'lifesavers’ seen at many beaches around Australia, these 'lifeguards’ are not volunteers but full-time professional employees of the local municipal council and form part of the range of services provided by the third tier of government in Australia. In 2007 Waverley Council employed 35 lifeguards to patrol Bondi Beach 365 days a year, with up to eight on duty at any one time.
  • Lifesavers are iconic figures in Australian beach culture, seen as supremely fit, highly trained as a team, ready to save lives at a moment’s notice. The lifeguards conform to this popular image. The quality of their teamwork is evident in the clip. They all hold Advanced Resuscitation Certificates and have completed defibrillator courses. They have all passed an exacting physical test that includes an 800-m pool swim, a 600-m ocean swim and a 600-m sand run.
  • Professional lifeguards form part of a long tradition of saving lives on Australian beaches that dates back to the early 1900s. At that time, public sea 'bathing’ during daylight hours had recently become legal in New South Wales and the number of drownings had risen dramatically. Groups of experienced swimmers established clubs to patrol popular beaches and voluntarily protect beachgoers. One of the first of these was established at Bondi in 1904.
  • The dramatic events unfolding in the clip, taken from Episode 4 of Series 1, suggest why the Australian reality television program Bondi Rescue was able to attract about 1.2 million viewers per episode in 2006. Film crews followed the lifeguards at work patrolling Bondi Beach throughout the daylight hours every weekend between November and January. The crews were obliged not to impede or interrupt the lifeguards during any rescues and to obey all their directives.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia

Production company:
Cordell Jigsaw Productions
Consultant producer:
David Gyngell
Field producers:
Christopher Zinn, Rick McPhee, Daniel Marsden
Hugh Piper
Executive producers:
Michael Cordell, Nick Murray
Series producer:
Ben Davies
Narration script:
Michael Cordell