So, you want to be a lifeguard?

By Tom Stone

From time to time, usually when the high schools are on recess, the 2 cities we live in will offer lifeguard training. I had lifeguard training when I was 16. Guess what? It’s entirely different now. When I was 16 there was no rescue tubes, no CPR training, no AED’s (defibrillators), no backboards to pull the victim out of the water, and no 911. All we were taught is how to swim out to or toss a line to the person drowning. The training took about 6 hours, then one test to swim out and save some potential drowning victims at the end of the course.

It’s a lot different now. Before you can even start the class you must complete an on line video with information and instruction that is supposed to take 7 hours. It takes about 10 hours as no one is that fast. There is a recorded on line test at the end of the video that goes to lifeguard headquarters somewhere that they keep. The test satisfies your CPR test requirement. They let you take it twice if you fail the first time. Good thing.

The first day you arrive at the pool for training, and after you pay your $195 course fee, the instructor gives you a swimming test:  swim 300 yards, tread water for 2 minutes using only your legs, and surface dive to pick up a 10 pound brick and swim on your back with it to the pool edge. If you pass, you get to start class. Tip: Keep your $195 check hidden in case you don’t pass.

The pool lifesaving instruction usually takes 4 days, 9 AM to 4 PM, but you do get a ½ hour lunch break. During the pool training, you learn how to dive in to rescue a victim, extract them from the pool using the backboard, practice your CPR on plastic dummies and pretend to zap them with the defibrillator. TIP: Make sure they are not laying in a puddle of water before defibrillation. The hard part was putting on the blue non-latex (nitrile) plastic gloves before giving CPR.  Scraping your toes while kneeling on the cement deck to give CPR was the 2nd hardest part. Dawn, our instructor, needed us to complete the rescue up to starting CPR within 2 minutes. Since it took me 30 seconds to get the gloves on it was close.

Then on the last day another multiple-choice test, 80% to pass, and you’re a lifeguard.

You will be glad you took the training. There is much more to the training than what I listed above, like first aid, emergency action plans, injury prevention, head, neck, spinal injuries, but those are the basics. The skills and knowledge you acquire will always be useful in day to day living.