Waterfront Safety And Preparation

Although you will have written lifeguard certifications for staff members prior to camp, make sure to observe lifeguards during their pre-camp certification.

Don’t be afraid to jump in the water and have them save you. Throw in an unusual exercise during staff training to see how everyone responds to an atypical emergency. Have lifeguards save both a passive and active drowning victim.

Have lifeguards prove they can swim long distances with and without a victim. You never know when they will have to save someone in the middle of the lake without a boat.

Check And Update Safety Equipment

Of course there is always the goal of maximizing the lifespan of safety equipment; however, these items must work when needed.

Have the WD and AWD do a thorough review of all equipment, including safety lines, ring buoys, rescue tubes, radios, etc., and err on the side of safety when determining if their usable lifespan is over. There is absolutely no jury alive that will be lenient about outdated equipment.

Prepare Kids

Waterfront safety starts with the camper.

It is common to require every child to take a swim test, and the same should be true to ensure every camper knows the waterfront rules and regulations on arrival day.

Set limits and expectations by having counselors tell the campers how serious unsupervised swimming and diving can be, and have them review the free-swim rules before the first event.

The WD should review the free-swim rules for the entire camp at lunch announcements before free swim, and every year, as the director, make a personal announcement as to the seriousness of checking in and out of the water and the importance of the buddy system. Usually, when the director speaks, everyone listens.

Attend The First Free Swim

The best way to see your team in action is to go to free swim. That’s right, put on your suit and get in the water.

Test the procedures from check-in to check-out. See if the head lifeguard makes you swim with a buddy. Try to swim outside the boundaries and hang on the safety lines to see what happens.

Make sure lifeguards are actually focused and in rotation, and look for any potential safety issues that may have been overlooked.

Free swim is a fun but dangerous time when so many kids are in the water together.

I assume most camps are thorough in their waterfront safety procedures, and I hope that my suggestions are merely reinforcing your existing waterfront policy, but I also suspect that many directors haven’t been in the water in a long time.

Jump in, the water’s fine! Let’s all have a safe and happy waterfront, this and every summer.

Mitch Parker is one of the owner/directors of Camp Waziyatah in Waterford, Maine, along with his brother Gregg. Wazi resides on 130 acres and a 3.5-mile lake. Mitch went to summer camp in Western Carolina from ages 6 to 20 and was a water-ski instructor, water-safety instructor (WSI), lifeguard, lifeguard trainer, and assistant waterfront director.

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