American Red Cross Makes Lifeguard Program Revisions

For many years we saw training being dumbed down for lifeguards however we are beginning to see advancements in training that will hopefully raise the bar for pool lifeguards all over the nation. We still believe that despite the new changes, lifeguards need more training than the required 24 hours of initial training.

We have not fully evaluated the new American Red Cross changes but we will be comparing ARC with Starfish Aquatics Starguard® training and then be able to give a better review.

We would like to see the mandatory age requirement for lifeguards pushed to 18 years of age as it is for EMT’s. We would like to see training hours increase to 48 hours from 24. We would also like to see a national lifeguard registry similar to the National Registry of EMT’s.

Golden State Lifeguards is putting together a proprietary lifeguard training academy that will far exceed any other training program available. Our goal is to produce the best trained lifeguards and those who can perform as first responders. The unique element of the academy will feature the EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) component that will put all trainees in a higher bracket than basic lifeguards. The idea is that despite changes in American Red Cross training that will push the bar higher.


The American Red Cross has made revisions to its lifeguarding suite of programs. Highlights include the latest emergency cardiovascular care science, officials said, as well as faster, more efficient extrication techniques to remove passive victims from the water.


Rescue techniques have been modified. Before, lifeguards were assigned as primary or secondary rescuers during drills, each with a specific set of responsibilities. The Red Cross now uses six different multiple-rescue response scenarios where instructors do not assign roles. “It gives lifeguarding participants the opportunity to feel like they’re in a real-world scenario,” said Nicole Steffens, national aquatic product manager for the American Red Cross. “It helps with their critical thinking, ability to communicate within a team, and to prioritize care when making a rescue.”


The qualifications for maintaining certification as a Red Cross Lifeguarding Instructor also have changed. Before, this required teaching at least one full lifeguarding course during the certification period, as well as completing an online recertification assessment and needed updates. Instructor Trainers had to teach at least one Lifeguarding Instructor class in addition to completing all course updates. Now Lifeguarding Instructors and Instructor Trainers also must complete an in-person review course every two years to maintain their certification.


Some new classroom drills were added. Lifeguard Station Response Time Testing helps managers evaluate lifeguard stations to ensure guards can respond to a water emergency, remove the victim and begin ventilations within 1½ – 2 minutes within any part of any zone. Ask Drills allow lifeguards and facility managers to evaluate stations and understand zone challenges. Live Recognition Drills are designed to evaluate lifeguard surveillance and ability to recognize a drowning victim within 30 seconds.


Updates to the Red Cross lifeguarding program are made every five years, and the revisions are derived from a number of sources, including the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and volunteer Red Cross instructors and instructor trainers.

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