How to become a lifeguard

August 15, 2019 | Surfing
Lifeguards: they save hundreds of thousands of live every year | Photo: Shutterstock

Every year, lifeguards save hundreds of thousands of lives all around the world.

The job of a lifeguard is to supervise the safety and rescue struggling swimmers and water sports participants in any aquatic environment.

Lifeguards can be found in almost any body of water.

They're are fully trained to save lives at ocean and river beaches, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, water parks, lakes, marinas, lagoons, etc.

A lifeguard's ultimate goal is to enforce water safety, rescue people in challenging conditions, avoid drownings, and to perform first aid maneuvers and CPR whenever needed.

CPR: lifeguards should know how to perform a cardiopulmonary resuscitation lifesaving technique | Photo: Shutterstock

Prevention and Education

Ideally, the lifeguard should never get wet. He or she is responsible for the safety of people in public or private water areas.

A lifeguard should also educate and inform people about the dangers of certain behaviors, issue warnings, and deny access to the water.

Lifeguards enforce a series of pre-determined rules to avoid injuries and drownings. It also their duty to anticipate problems by observing the patrolling area and communicating with bathers and water users.

Lifeguards should focus their attention on all four types of swimmers: average swimmers, distressed swimmers, active drowning victims, and passive drowning victims.

They should be positioned in places where they can obtain an optimum observation of the public.

As a result, traditionally they place themselves in elevated positions like lifeguard towers, high platforms with chairs, landmarks, tall rock structures, and even on the roof of an emergency vehicle.

Lifeguard tower: elevated positions are useful for detecting struggling swimmers | Photo: Shutterstock

Lifesaving Equipment

Lifeguards have specially-designed equipment that helps them communicate with water users and perform rescues.

Depending on the region or country, a lifeguard has at his or her disposal flags and warning signs, poles, lifebuoys, swim fins, surfboards, and a whistle to raise an alert and communicate with the public.

Some lifesaving teams also have rescue boats, jet skis, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), supplemental oxygen, spinal immobilization boards, pick-up truck, quad bikes, and even drones to keep people safe.

Lifesaving equipment: boards, buoys and fins help lifeguards save lives | Photo: Shutterstock

Lifeguard Pre-Test Requirements

Lifeguard training schemes vary from country to country, but a few organizations are setting global standards across the world.

The American Red Cross (ARC) and United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) are recognized internationally for their lifeguard training, equipping, and preparedness programs.

They run all year round courses designed to give individuals the knowledge and skills needed to become a certified lifeguard.

To enroll in these official lifeguard courses, the candidate must take and pass a pre-course skills test that will assess the candidate's basic skills.

For example, they should able, among several requirements to perform the following actions:

1. Swim x yards continuously demonstrating breath control and rhythmic breathing;
2. Tread water for a couple of minutes using only the legs;
3. Complete a timed object retrieval event within a short period of time;
4. Swim x yards, submerge and retrieve dive rings placed x yards apart in x feet of water, resurface and continue to swim another x yards to complete the skill sequence;

Lifeguard: prevention and education are critical for ensuring water safety | Photo: Shutterstock

Lifeguard Training and Certification

Once approved, the lifeguard candidate will attend traditional in-person classes (around 25 hours), aquatic attraction life classes (approximately 23 hours), and shallow water lifeguard training (roughly 25 hours).

The course involves various lifesaving exercises, proper rescue techniques and procedures, and victim care.

In the end, the lifeguard candidate should be able to understand his responsibilities, perform active surveillance, prevent injuries, activate emergency action plans and put his or her water rescue skills to the test in real-life conditions.

Lifeguards should also know how to assess the condition of a victim before providing care, deal with breathing and cardiac emergencies, perform first aid, and identify head, neck, and spinal injuries.

The official lifesaving certification is valid for two years upon completion and is accepted nationwide. Once it expires, you should enroll in lifeguard recertification classes.

The minimum age for becoming a lifeguard varies between 15 and 16 years of age.

Generally speaking, to become a lifeguard, you should be able to be comfortable in deep and rough waters, be fit to handle struggling swimmers, and perform first aid.

Several websites offer part-time and full-time lifeguard jobs. The average hourly wage varies from $10 to 15$.

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