On Guard

The possibility of a missing swimmer or drowning victim is one of the most stomach-churning thoughts of a camp administrator. Consequently, it is vitally important for lifeguards to have the proper tools, training, and supervision.

Be on your toes when supervising lifeguards. © Can Stock Photo Inc. / sonofakinger

Here are some key factors to ensure that aquatic staff members provide a safe experience:

Certified lifeguards should be trained on specific aquatic practices and equipment.

Lifeguards have, indeed, been tested in emergency recognition and appropriate rescue techniques. However, the curriculum of various certifying organizations is not uniform. Camp leaders cannot assume that lifeguards have been trained in the use of equipment specific to your camp’s pool or waterfront. Lifeguards need to be oriented to a facility’s exact rescue equipment and trained in how and when to utilize it.

Individuals also need to know how his or her certification differs from that of other lifeguards. This may affect how the team responds in a rescue situation. With so many nuances in certification requirements between organizations, a camp’s established aquatic procedures may actually require a lifeguard to perform a skill in which he or she is not certified.

Camp administrators need to be aware that those differences exist, and that this can have serious legal ramifications for the lifeguard and the camp if an emergency arises.

Having a certified lifeguard instructor present during pre-camp training can be a huge benefit to lifeguards and the lifeguard supervisor, as they work to determine the best way to utilize individual certifications.

“Certified” is not the same as “qualified.”

Assuming that a lifeguard is prepared to guard at a facility simply because he or she has a current certification card opens the door to potential disaster. For instance, some lifeguards may only use their certification during the summer. Even lifeguards who guard year-round may get rusty with many of their rescue skills because (hopefully) they don’t need to use them often.

Compare this concept to testing a camp’s smoke detectors. Fresh batteries may have been installed two months prior, but that does not guarantee the smoke detectors are working properly today. Likewise, camps need to regularly test certified lifeguards to make sure they are still qualified.

Observe lifeguards and don’t forget the feedback.

Having someone sit on the pool deck with a clipboard and observe lifeguards is only one approach to supervision. Camps need to develop additional techniques to evaluate lifeguards in a way that is informal and frequent, and ensures they’re doing their job correctly all of the time.

Observing lifeguards doesn’t have to be a production. Walk the beach regularly during swim times, and even sit and chat with campers. Make frequent appearances so guards will train themselves to be vigilant, never knowing when you might stroll by.

Assign other staff members to “hang out at the beach” and observe the lifeguards as well; arm them with a simple checklist, or give them two or three concrete things to watch for. Have them report their observations, and complete a paper checklist in your own office.

Like all employees, lifeguards should know what needs attention and what they’re doing well. All too often, supervisors are compelled to enforce needed corrections but fail to praise staff for a solid performance.

Make a point to share observations with the lifeguards even if no corrective action is required. Teach the lifeguard supervisor to do the same so lifeguards receive feedback on a regular basis, not just during formal evaluations.

Assess skills by making lifeguards use them.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Camp Aquatic Safety
  2. PRM — Prevention, Recognition and Management
  3. Cool Pools, Waterfront & Shade Structures
  4. Wading Through Possibilities
  5. Testing The Waters
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers