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During a drowning incident where a lifeguard is not present, a bystander – referred to as a lay rescuer - may put themselves in danger by attempting a rescue. When lay rescuers can avoid entering the water by using rescue equipment to help a drowning victim, it serves to not only help the person actively drowning, but also provides a layer of protection to a lay rescuer. This study sought to examine the following questions: (a) which pieces of rescue equipment were preferred by lay rescuers at pre-determined short and long distances, (b) do lay rescuers select appropriate rescue equipment based on the condition, (c) do lay rescuers correctly deploy their preferred rescue equipment, and (d) what factors influence rescue equipment preference. A lab-based experiment was conducted where study participants were asked to react to a simulated drowning victim using six common rescue equipment provided. The findings suggested that life rings were preferred rescue equipment by lay rescuers and should be provided in unguarded aquatic environments.