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With summer right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to begin thinking about lifeguard preparations for the upcoming season.

There’s no substitute for advance preparation. You can lay the groundwork for a safe summer by ensuring that you and your guards are well-equipped for your guests when they arrive. The checklist below includes some important items related to staffing and daily operations that must be considered so you’ll be ready for opening day.

Prepare and update job descriptions and application forms for lifeguards, and begin interviews. Remember to check with your personnel office to ensure legal compliance (no questions regarding marital status, ethnicity and the like). Plan and allow time for pre-employment screening tests — for example, some employers conduct written and skills pre-screening tests, background checks, and pre-employment drug tests. Confirm that applicants’ certifications are current by requiring them to provide originals for you to make copies of. Don’t forget to contact returning staff members as well, just to make sure they’re still coming back.

Place advertisements for lifeguards. Include minimum qualifications such as current certifications in lifeguarding, first aid, CPR, AED; salary; start date; contact information; how to apply; closing date; and responsibilities. Ads can be placed in local papers; on Web sites; at recreation centers, local colleges, high schools and swim clubs; on the radio and on the local cable channel.

Prepare/update forms (weekly schedule forms, skills evaluation forms, in-service training report forms, accident and water rescue forms, daily log forms, water test logs, work order forms and so forth).

Check and restock first aid supplies and safety equipment. This is also a good time to order lifeguard uniforms and whistles. See to it that you have proper permits from health department and other governmental organizations, too.

Set the date, notify the staff and prepare for orientation. It’s a good idea to compile an employee policies and procedures manual. Possible topics to include:

  • Work schedule/days off/substitution policy
  • Rotation and break schedule
  • Surveillance coverage (zone or total)
  • Emergency action plan
  • Opening/closing procedures
  • Water testing (procedures and documentation of results)
  • Staff evaluation policies
  • Facility rules
  • Severe weather policies
  • Maintenance/cleaning schedule
  • Instructions for administering swim tests
  • Organizational chart, including chain of command and job descriptions
  • Common paperwork (season ticket forms; time sheets; accident and water rescue report forms; daily attendance forms; swim lesson registration/information; facility safety checklist; and water test logs)

Plan in-service training sessions. Some of these should be scheduled prior to opening, and others can take place throughout the summer (emergency action plan; CPR/AED; rescue skills; spinal injuries; RWIs; bloodborne pathogens; sun exposure; dehydration; heat illness; managing hazardous materials).

Be sure to document dates and times of in-service training sessions, topics covered, and who attended.