Lifeguard Training, Hit or Miss!

This is that time of year when many teens and college students start thinking about Spring/Summer and for some of them, becoming lifeguards to make some cash this summer. This is also that time of year when many lifeguard companies and training centers start marketing lifeguard training classes or lifeguard “boot camps”. Lifeguard classes mean big profits for many and those profits will often cause many trainers to look the other way if a student can’t successfully pass the training with flying colors. This has been something that has been occurring more and more over the years and with devastating consequences.

As more and more of today’s teens and millennials demand entitlements, this problem will only get worse and not just for lifeguard training but in schools and in colleges all over the country. One example is Los Angeles Unified School District which has abandoned exit exams in order for students to graduate high school. They are also notorious for allowing students to advance to higher grade levels despite their inability to read, write or do basic math. The same can be said for lifeguard training as well.

Being a lifeguard requires a type of discipline that requires one to be physically fit, to focus, to be alert, to be responsive, to be a strong swimmer, etc. etc.  If an individual does not have the qualifications to be a lifeguard, they have no business being a lifeguard as a person’s life may become dependent on their actions.

As of today the requirements to become a lifeguard are as follows:

  1. Be at least 15 years of age
  2. Demonstrate strong swimming skills
  3. Swim 300 yards continuously
  4. Complete a 10-pound object retrieval
    Starting in the water, you must swim 20 yards using front crawl or breaststroke, surface dive 7-10 feet, retrieve a 10-pound object, return to the surface, swim 20 yards to the starting point with the object and exit the water without using a ladder or steps within 1 minute and 40 seconds.
  5. Tread water for 2 minutes without using hands

Typically the training is approximately 30 hours in length.

Too often we have seen classes excluding swim tests or other required tests for lifeguard certification. This is essentially dumbing down the training to facilitate the weaker paying students. Is this right? Definitely NO! We have seen classes that basically instruct students on how to do certain rescues without spending the time to ensure that each student fully understands and executes the skills taught. In fact there are several providers in the Los Angeles market that operate as a mill and others using inexperienced lifeguards to teach others. The perfect storm is brewing and sooner or later a lifeguard will be cause to a fatal drowning which will also implicate the training facility as well.

We are advocates of state regulation of lifeguard training and we are seeking a statewide database or registry of lifeguards. If EMT’s and paramedics are required to be registered on a database, so should lifeguards. This database would list lifeguards who have successfully passed testing and also track their certifications. If the industry can’t self regulate, then it is time to be regulated by the state. This will essentially raise the bar on training and hold instructors accountable.

We would like to see training time doubled, a state skills and written test administered and of course a registry established. We would also like to see the minimum age raised for lifeguards from 15 to 18 years of age. Too many ill equipped lifeguards are allowing drownings to occur or are not performing the lifesaving skills that were taught in their class. Their are numerous articles that illustrate why training should be increased and more accountability demanded.

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