Lifeguard In-Service Training: Who Benefits?

By Cable, Steve | Parks & Recreation, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Lifeguard In-Service Training: Who Benefits?


Cable, Steve, Parks & Recreation


Who will benefit from effective lifeguard in-service training? The answers seem simple and perhaps too obvious. Certainly anyone helped by a lifeguard will consider himself or herself the beneficiary of effective lifeguard in-service training. Our community park boards or private owners should appreciate that in-services provide important training and preparation. And onsite managers should expect to see improved lifeguard performance. These obvious answers can easily fail to include the most significant participant in any supervised aquatic event--the professional lifeguard. In-service training will benefit the professional lifeguard both now, on today's job site, and in his or her future.

Training films for the National Pool and Waterpark Lifeguard Training Program include interviews with lifeguards who have professionally managed critical incidents and rescues. When asked to review the importance and value of his in-service training, one of the lifeguards interviewed recalled that while he was shaking, he knew exactly what to do. Effective in-service trainings prepare lifeguards to perform during an incident. Equally important, that preparation translates into confident response and performance and enables the individual to continue with his or her personal and professional life after an incident.

As aquatics managers, we all schedule and assign lifeguards to perform the one essential, professional duty that only they can perform--preventing drownings. Any staff member or even our guests can enforce our pool rules. Our lifeguards may not be able to keep a child from running or falling on our pool deck, or prevent a swimmer from suffering some distress and needing assistance or rescue, but they can prevent drownings if we enable and require them to maintain constant vigilance. As our aquatic programs move away from the conventional attitude of "pools for use by accomplished swimmers only" and welcome more diverse guests and activities, we incur greater exposure to health emergencies and accidents. Critical incidents will occur, but vigilant lifeguards will prevent those incidents from progressing to drownings.

Integrate Skills

Effective lifeguard in-service training integrates experience, judgment and rescue skills. Would you accept this as a working definition or description of effective lifeguard in-service training? Effective lifeguard in-service training develops the lifeguards' ability to prevent drownings by providing them an opportunity to integrate their experience, their judgment and their rescue skills.

We can all anticipate that a "real deal" critical incident immediately presents limitless opportunities for panic and complete chaos. Professional incident management requires teamwork, poise and self-confidence. Lifeguards must be able to quickly prioritize and implement highly skilled, coordinated responses. To be effective and realistic, in-service must:

* Require the lifeguard team to anticipate, recognize and manage a variety of incidents. Effective incident management requires that a lifeguard's basic rescue skills be adaptable and responsible to a variety of possible situations. We can certainly foresee an incident which would indicate immobilizing a guest for a potential cervical injury. But if the guest has recovered to a kneeling position, the lifeguard will not have to turn the guest from a face-down to a supine position. An in-service program that stresses realism will identify if your lifeguards have the mistaken impression that all spinal victims will be facedown.

Effective incident management also requires a lifeguard to possess more than basic rescue skills, and we want to avoid conducting in-services that teach lifeguards that their job entails only water rescue skills. …

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