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3 Boulder Brae Lane
Larchmont, NY 10538
Ph. (914) 834-7536
Fax. (866) 438-4505

Mr. Frank Pia


Francesco "Frank" Pia, PhD: President


Originator of the Distress vs. Drowning person classification.

Conducted the original research on the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Copyright author of the characteristics of an actively struggling drowning person.

Instituted the first lifeguard and water safety training program for teaching drowning person recognition concepts in Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States.

45 years experience in drowning accident causation and reconstruction for public and private aquatic agencies.

40 years experience lecturing to federal, state, county, and local agencies on the causes and solutions to swimming, nonswimming, and boating related drowning fatalities.

21 years experience as a lifeguard and Chief lifeguard at Orchard Beach, Bronx, NY, where approximately 2,000 near drownings and rescues occurred each summer.

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

  1. Section 3.9.9 The Reasons People Drown. Pia, F.
  2. Section 5.5 Lifeguard Surveillance and Scanning: past, present and future": Fenner, Griffiths, Oosterman & Pia
  3. Section 5.19. Management of Physical and Psychological responses during administration of CPR to drowned persons. Pia, F.

Professional Committees

American National Red Cross
National Advisory Committee Lifeguard Training
Draft course content for 1983 Lifeguard Training textbook

American National Red Cross
National Advisory Committee
Lifeguard Training & Water Safety
Author of 3 chapters in Lifeguarding Today:
Aquatic Injury Prevention, Patron Surveillance, & Facility Surveillance

American National Red Cross
National Advisory Committee
GuardStart: Lifeguarding Tomorrow

Chairman, Health & Safety Advisory Committee
American Red Cross
Westchester County, NY

American Red Cross National Advisory Committee
Guard Start/Lifeguarding Tomorrow

American Red Cross National Advisory Committee
Lifeguard Training

American Red Cross National Advisory Committee
Lifeguard Manager

American Red Cross National Advisory Committee
Advisory Council for First Aid, Aquatics, Safety & Preparedness (ACFASP)

American Red Cross National Advisory Committee
Lifeguard Training

United States Lifeguard Standards Coalition

CDC: Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC):
Bather Supervision Sub-Committee


2005 - Who's Who in Aquatic Leadership in the USA

2004 - Who's Who in Aquatic Leadership in the USA

2003 - American National Red Cross
           Special Citation for Exceptional Volunteer Service

2000 - American Red Cross in Westchester County, NY
           Volunteer of the Year

Completed Research Projects

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

Established drowning person recognition training as an area of study in lifeguarding and aquatics

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.

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.

Developed the RID Factor for analyzing the causes of swimming related drowning fatalities.

Developed a childrens summer camp drowning protection system

Received American, and European patents for a rescue paddle board U.S. Patent # s 4,894,035 and 5,127,862

Articulated the difference between behavior and trait surveillance. Referenced the psycho-physiological contraindications for teaching pattern scanning surveillance techniques.

Audio-Visual Training Aids

Produced and directed the following training films:

On Drowning, 1970, a 13-minute lifeguard film which contains actual, not staged, film footage of 12 near drownings and rescues which range from single victims through a group of four.

Drowning: Facts & Myths, 1976, a 10 minute film
The Reasons People Drown, 1988, a 22 minute videotape

Lifeguard Experience

May 1969 - Sept. 1979
Chief Lifeguard, Orchard Beach, Bronx, NY supervised 50 lifeguards and 3 Lieutenant lifeguards, conducted in service lifeguard and CPR training at Orchard Beach and 12 New York City pools.

May 1964 - Sept. 1968
Lieutenant Lifeguard, Orchard Beach, Bronx NY.

June, 1959 - Sept. 1963
Lifeguard, Orchard Beach, Bronx, NY.

Educational Background Summary:

In addition to his expertise in lifeguard training and drowning prevention, Dr. Pia has two master's degrees, an advanced 30 graduate credit clinical certificate in psychological testing and assessment. He has worked with academically "at risk" adolescents in urban and suburban settings from 1970 - 1998. During this time he was also a member of the New York City Board of Education's Citywide Crisis Prevention and Intervention team and Westchester County's Youth Gang Task Force.

Dr. Pia, a school psychologist, trained in the cognitive psychology/human information paradigm has for the past 37 years studied intensely the human visual system, vigilance paradigms, and human information processing. His understanding of the intersection of human performance theories and empirical research enabled him to explain to lifeguards, lifeguard instructors, lifeguard managers, and lifeguard training agencies how humans assign meaning to incoming visual stimuli. His continual learning about the conceptual underpinnings for analyzing perceptual decisions underlying detecting the absence or presence of certain distress and drowning behaviors, delineating short-term memory and working memory capacities and limitations of human attention, and the effects of physiological and psychological stress on human information processing continue to be his areas of academic interest.

Union Institute and University

As a midlife/midcareer adult, with significant varied life experience and advanced degrees, who was guided by principles of andragogy cited by Knowles (1980) and Cross (1981), and deeply influenced by the lifecycle perspectives of Levinson (1978), Bridges (1980), and Hudson (1991), Dr. Pia chose to enroll in the Union Institute and University's Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Studies. For several decades this regionally accredited and renowned educational institution developed higher education models based on the principles of mid-life adult learning and adaptations of the tutorial-based paradigms of British and German research universities. Union Institute and University (UIU) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and has degree granting authorization from the Ohio Board of Regents.

The UIU's constructivist re-specialization adult education model required learners to develop a meticulous learning agreement. UIU doctoral students are not given academic credit for prior master's level work or life experience. The learning agreement contained detailed course descriptions, comprehensive educational goals and objectives, appropriate learning strategies, competency-based faculty assessments and suitable documentation, and substantial primary textbooks, bibliographies for all courses. Dr. Pia's studies blended independent study; online learning; individual faculty - learner mentoring and assessment; learner led instructional peer days; attendance at traditional lecture courses given by UIU faculty members; and off-site 40 hour seminars given by credentialed authorities and professors from other universities. This course of study totaled 116 semester credit hours. In 2004, Dr. Pia was granted a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in psychology, human factors, and public health.

UIU Internship

Dr. Pia completed a 500 hour internship at SUNY-Westchester's Academic Support Center (ASC) where he designed a pilot research study utilizing instruments that measured the impact of environmental factors (hours worked and years away from school), internal factors (anxiety levels and college study behaviors) and the utilization of the Academic Support Center's services by part-time and full-time students. The results and recommendations from this research study were analyzed and discussed with the members of the ASC and were included in the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 SUNY Westchester's Strategic Planning Annual Reports.

UIU Dissertation

Dr. Pia's quantitative doctoral dissertation assessed 2,226 urban, suburban, and rural middle and high school students' awareness of the physical energy transformation mechanisms that cause traumatic head and spinal cord injuries. He used cognitive psychology constructivist approaches to learning and schema belief modification research findings as the conceptual foundations for increasing the students' knowledge of head and spinal cord injury prevention behaviors in grades 7 through 12. Attention was directed to increasing adolescents' use of seatbelts, bicycle and skateboard helmets, and to decrease the incidence of head first diving into above ground backyard pools, lakes, and beaches. Dr. Pia developed treatment and control groups' instrumentation that assessed adolescents' perceptions of perceived susceptibility, likelihood, and severity for head and spinal cord injuries for the above cited activities.

American Psychological Association (APA) Membership

Upon a review of his doctoral studies, the APA approved his request for a change from associate to full association membership. The APA member category is reserved for individuals who have received a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field from a regionally accredited institution that provided confirmation of proficiency in psychological scholarship and verification of a qualitative psychological dissertation.


Bachelor of Arts: 1968
Long Island University
Commission of Higher Education: Middle States Association
State Authorization
New York State Department of Education

Master of Arts: 1973
Long Island University
Commission of Higher Education: Middle States Association
State Authorization
New York State Department of Education

Master of Science: 1976
The City University of New York
Commission of Higher Education: Middle States Association
State Authorization
New York State Department of Education

Advanced Certificate: 1977
The City University of New York
Clinical School Psychology
Commission of Higher Education: Middle States Association
State Authorization
New York State Department of Education

Doctor of Philosophy: 2004
Union Institute and University
Interdisciplinary Studies: Psychology, Human Factors & Public Health
Higher Learning Commission:
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
State Authorization
Ohio Board of Regents

Professional Certificate:

School Psychologist: New York State Department of Education

Forensic Publications
"Unobserved Drownings: The Unnoticed Struggle"
"Establishing Causation in Unobserved Drownings"

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