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About Dr. Frank Pia

Frank Pia

About Dr. Francesco "Frank" Pia, PhD

My history in lifeguarding goes back a long way—I was first certified as a lifeguard by New York Parks and Recreation in 1959, and then assigned to Orchard Beach in the Bronx. It's a man-made beach, but when the tide goes out, there is an abrupt drop. That one summer, my team and I rescued over 2,000 people. The experience and sheer number of rescues inspired me to create a 16 mm film to teach lifeguards how to identify drowning individuals. Ultimately, this gave me my start in the drowning prevention field and training lifeguards.

The Reasons People Drown
 is another film I created and produced in 1983. This 24-minute film covered spinal cord injuries sustained in diving accidents, as well as the effects of alcohol and drugs on drowning and boating-related fatalities.


Francesco "Frank" Pia, PhD

Aquatic Publications

"Observations on the Drowning of Nonswimmers"
Journal of Physical Education
The YMCA Society of North America, July 1974.
Reprinted in Lifeguarding, 1st. Edition (1980)
American Association of Health, Physical Education,
and Recreation

"The RID Factor as a Cause of Drowning"
Parks & Recreation
National Parks & Recreation Society, June 1984.

"Reduce Swimming Pool Diving Accidents and Millions of Dollars in Liability Costs"
Crawford Educational Newsletter
Crawford & Company, Nov./Dec., 1982.

"Preventing Swimming Related Fatalities"
Pennsylvania Parks & Recreation Society
Spring 1991 Volume 22, No. 3

"Proposing a New Safety Collaboration"
Pool & Spa News
June 15, 1994

"Reflections On Element #1 of Effective Surveillance: Water Crisis Recognition Training"
Proceeding of International Medical-Rescue Conference
International Lifesaving Federation
Sept. 1997, San Diego, CA

"Reflections on Lifeguard Surveillance Programs"
The New Science of Drowning
Perspectives on Intervention and Prevention
CRC Press - January 1999

Lifeguard Effectiveness: A Report of the Working Group

Patron Surveillance: A Key Component of Lifeguarding Services
Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: 2001.

Branche, CM & Stewart, S. (Ed.)
Handbook on Drowning: Prevention, Rescue, and Treatment
Bierens, J.J.L. (Ed) Springer (2002), NY

Section 3.9.9 "The Reasons People Drown." Pia, F

Section 5.5 "Lifeguard Surveillance and Scanning: past, present, and future." Fenner, Griffiths, Osterman, & Pia

Section 5.19. "Management of Physical and Psychological responses during the administration of CPR to drowned persons." Pia, F

Completed Research Projects

I originated the Distress vs Drowning Person classification, which is used by nearly all the major lifeguard training agencies in Australia, Canada, Europe, United States, and New Zealand.

I established Drowning Person Recognition Training as an area of study in lifeguarding and aquatics.

I conceived the swimming rescue referenced in Alert II as the Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada, and formerly taught as the modified cross-chest carry by the American Red Cross.

I conducted a two-year research study into the causes of swimming-related drowning fatalities in the United States from 1910 to 1980 in areas where lifeguards were on duty.

What Others Have Said About Frank Pia

"Your film On Drowning and statements are some of the most profound welcomed thoughts in a field which is charged with a vital duty...The Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Professional Lifeguards has unanimously endorsed your work."
C.W. (Bill) K., Director, Canadian Association of Professional Lifeguards; 8/18/1973

"Your On Drowning film has been an invaluable training aid in our instruction over the past few years"
 Jane S. W., Coordinator, Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service; 6/2/1978

"Your film... On Drowning and editorials on the identification of the drowning victim have made a significant contribution to the water safety programs throughout the world."
Jack D., Chief Superintendent, National Council, The Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia; 4/26/1977