Each year, I provide awareness training to new and returning lifeguards to help them
become aware of potential sex offenders.
As we train new and returning guards, we need to recognize that
in today’s society, they are providing much more than a safe
activity for young and old. The public demands that guards ensure a
safe, healthy environment. This training also will help them become
more alert to their total surroundings, and may be that important
link to preventing tragedy.
Before introducing this in-service program, it’s a good
idea to get permission from the head of your recreation or facility
management. Also keep in mind that many organizations provide
awareness training of this type and may be very helpful in the
delivery and structure of such a program.
My training program starts with some simple observation
techniques. To avoid confusion and overwhelming them with too much
data, I divide the session into three groups of potential
Teenage: (12- to 18 years old)
Typical profile: The individual is familiar with
the area and is known by the staff.
Observation triggers: Individual is behaving out
of character. For example, asking about the times that kids’
swim lessons begin; seems to hang more around the playground and
Dress code: Individual’s dress is
complementary of what others are wearing in and around the water.
Dress would not be attention-seeking.
Adult (mid-teen to 21 years old)
Typical profile: Individual is not familiar with
the area and is not a known face to the staff.
Observation triggers: Individual is interested in
knowing swim times, staff ages. Person is frequently in and out of
aquatics facility, especially at high usage times.
Dress code: Very conservative shorts and
Camera: Possibly carrying a camera or taking
photos with cell phone. Individual isn’t far from
children’s gathering areas, swim area, playground, boat slips
and groups of kids using the facility, usually with young
Familiar adult (21 years old or above)
Typical profile: Individual is known to the
majority of the staff. He’s knowledgeable of the whole
environment, water area, grounds, out buildings.
Observation triggers: Individual usually
“volunteers” to assist in swim lessons of all ages, but
availability trend may lead to young ages. He has knowledge and
history of the area, is involved in a variety of city or town
functions. Again, often focuses on activities that involve younger
Dress code: The person blends in with current
dress attire of area. Noting attire would not bring attention to
this individual. Conversely, the individual’s presence would
be one of routine and go unnoticed.
For each observation, we talk about the pros and cons of being
an observer. We discuss questions such as, when does observation
outside the water become part of the job? It’s extremely
important that the staff understands that the observation and
vigilance techniques used to keep kids safe in the water also can
be used to keep them safe outside the water. For instance, we know
preventive intervention is always the best approach to water
safety. These same learned observation techniques could keep
children safe from mental, physical or emotional damage.
When discussing issues in and around the aquatics facility, the
staff must be able recognize a difference in someone’s
attitude, disposition, posture and general response to the activity
in the area. We continuously build the lifeguards’
understanding of recognition and how to respond. The predatory
awareness in-service provides them with some basic tools for
recognizing suspicious behavior as outlined in the observation
Then we go over how to respond to such behavior. First, guards
are instructed to bring their concerns to the supervisor or
facility manager/director. They’re encouraged to discuss
specific concerns about this behavior.
Managers are trained to review the information for clarity, and
make sure it is fact-based. It should be stressed that any
communication about behavior must remain strictly confidential and
should be addressed only by the administration. If suspicion is
confirmed, the administration will follow the chain of command to
deal with the situation.