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All you need to know about Lifeguards

Well, firstly, what is a lifeguard?

A lifeguard is a professional responsible for keeping people safe in and around water sources.

Where would I find a lifeguard?

Lifeguards work in a variety of environments including but not limited to swimming pools, water parks, beaches & open water facilities.

What do they do?

In many countries lifeguards have to undergo formal training and lifeguard certification programs before they can begin working.

The first priority of a lifeguard is accident prevention. Prevention is always better than cure! Lifeguards try to prevent accidents or incidents from happening before they happen. This means that the measure of how well a lifeguard unit is doing can be measured by the lack or reduction of drownings or medical incidents rather than the number or rapidity of rescues.

Lifeguards use a variety of communication methods that include hand signals, whistles, radios and flags. Lifeguards are professionally trained in a variety of rescue techniques for when swimmers get into difficulty. By constantly observing their surroundings, lifeguards are able to anticipate any emergencies in their immediate surroundings. Lifeguards are trained to deal with medical emergencies as they have basic first aid and CPR training, this includes in water resuscitation using a variety of equipment and aids depending on requirements of the venue. In some communities, lifeguards function as the primary emergency medical services provider.

A lifeguard must have the following skills:

  • First aid: A level of first aid training is required in order to become a lifeguard. Lifeguards are responsible for responding to emergencies, these include medical emergencies, in and outside the water. Lifeguards are trained with resuscitation skills, head & spinal injuries and responding to other medical emergencies such as epilepsy or heart attacks.

  • Teamwork: A lifeguard rarely works alone, they often work in pairs or in a team, the number depending on the area, water source and number of patrons and hazards.

  • Supervision: A lifeguard constantly observes the environment and aims to control any hazards or risks as they appear. This includes telling customers to refrain from dangerous activities or actions (eg. Backflips or diving into a shallow area, running and too rough play).

  • Water: Lifeguards are superior swimmers who are able to not only keep themselves afloat in the water, but be able to carry another, if not multiple people at the same time.

  • Communication: Lifeguards also give advice regarding water safety. Successful lifeguards are sociable and extremely safety conscious. Most of the time lifeguards act as an information hub for the venue's facilities and water sources.

What are the common responsibilities for Lifeguards?

  • Knowing their actions can save lives

  • Provide emergency care and treatment required until emergency services arrives.

  • Act quickly and appropriately to ensure the safety of patrons in the event of an emergency

  • Perform job-related duties where assigned

  • Prepare appropriate activity/incident reports

What are the typical qualifications for Lifeguard jobs?

  • Minimum of 3 patrols of lifeguard experience

  • Able to pass a pre-employment physical test in the water

  • Able to work on weekends

  • Highly skilled in surveillance and rescue techniques

  • Valid CPR and emergency medical procedures certificate/Retest

  • Good people skills

Duties of a lifeguard include...

  • Enforce all rules and regulations of the facility

  • Recognizing and responding to any and all emergencies

  • Give first aid/CPR in the event of injury or other incident

  • Communicate with other lifeguards when help is needed

  • Help maintain surrounding areas and minimalize hazards/hazardous behaviors to ensure the safety of patrons

Lifeguards may have other secondary duties such as cleaning, filling in paperwork, checking or cleaning the pools and acting as a general information point.

Although lifeguards have these duties, many of them do this as voluntary work. There are a variety of select jobs for lifeguards and their main type of training depends on what skills they would require most of the time at that facility for that specific job. For example, a deep-water/ open water rescuer would train differently to a pool side lifeguard who would also train differently to a beach lifeguard.

Identifying types of swimmers...

While performing surveillance of patrons, lifeguards generally categorize swimmers into four groups which aids in the recognition of who needs help or who will be needing help later on.

  1. Passive drowning victims- inactive, submerged or otherwise. When lifeguards see this kind of swimmer, they perform immediate emergency rescue.

  2. Active drowning victims- taking in water and attempting to stay at the surface. This behavior is the instinctive drowning response. Lifeguards perform an emergency assist as they may progress to a passive drowning victim if left unaided.

  3. Distressed swimmers- having trouble swimming, perhaps tired or unsure of the water or having a medical issue. They may or may not call out for help. Lifeguards usually go out and help them to shallower water or to the side.

  4. Normal swimmers- healthy swimmers who do not need any support and can clearly swim on their own.

These levels determine the amount of supervision focus each swimmer should require and help the lifeguards to maintain surveillance of multiple swimmers at the same time. More attention being given to groups 2 and 3.

So if a lifeguard is possibly staring at you, don't be alarmed, they probably are. It's their job to ensure you are kept safe in and around water at all times.

Always listen to the lifeguards, they are keeping you safe!

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