Let’s be clear: We all have limited time, and multiple duties, responsibilities and budgets to work around. Managing and organizing your in-service training should not add to your workload, but rather, reduce it.

The key to success here is to work smarter, not harder. Whether you are planning for a new lifeguard course, CPR class or simply ongoing in-service training, standardizing procedures can save you time, money and frustrations. However, you have to have a plan.  Here are some reminders to ensure you are maximizing your time, energy and efforts for more efficient and effective in-services.

  • Communication:  Whether you are conducting rescue drills for ongoing in-service training or a new CPR class, communication by electronic media now is a must. You need to communicate when, where and how long via posted schedule (on a Web site, for example), e-mail, or mass text messaging.
  • Space: Organization of pool lanes, deck space and classrooms needs to be secured and communicated to participants. How much pool or deck space is required? How long is the in-service training scheduled? Will it conflict with other scheduled programming? This type of monthly scheduling is utilized by many organizations and facilities, for multiuse programming, and typically is organized well in advance.
  • Equipment: Rescue tubes, AED trainers, manikins, one-way breathing masks — all take a big chunk out of a budget. Taking care of equipment, cleaning, proper use and maintenance should be standardized with checklists when applicable. Storage bins, trauma bags, including AED trainers, should be checked, resupplied, organized after each training session and stored properly for future use. Manikins must be properly sanitized and stored to minimize damage, along with rescue tubes and any one-way masks that will be re-used. Water and sun can damage equipment in more ways than the typical lifeguard, so store it high, dry and under cover. Requiring the lifeguards to conduct these tasks is a great way to build ownership and reinforces the notion of accountability.
  • Weather: Do you have a backup plan? If driving conditions become hazardous, do you have a text/e-mail alert that will be issued at a set time prior to the scheduled training? If outdoor facilities are utilized and rain or lightning becomes an issue, do you have a classroom available? And a backup “dry” lesson in your back pocket? Plan ahead, but remain flexible if conditions arise beyond your control.
  • Written Plans: Compile drills, in-service ideas/topics and games so they are easily accessible by the instructor or facilitator. To save time, have all major in-service topics on one form, such as rescues, active and passive; spinal management; CPR; and first aid. This acts as both a documentation form, and for tracking which topics are being covered week to week or month to month, to prevent repetition or deletion of vital skills. In addition, if time is limited, have one major objective for each training session to aid the instructors/facilitators in staying on task. For example, “Conditioning” or “Team CPR.”

Lastly, but most importantly … have fun!  It’s a no-brainer that we all learn and retain more information while we are having fun. Incorporate games, and competition within the training session. Lifeguards are very competitive, and it’s a great way to foster teamwork and build confidence within your lifeguard staff.
Be creative and allow your supervisory staff to develop and conduct training sessions.   Inclusion and having a say in what happens at any given in-service is one the cheapest employee incentive programs. Constantly involve your team, and let head lifeguards conduct an in-service to boost confidence and enhance their professional development. If you teach, you learn.

Well-organized, balanced and productive in-service training is the most valuable tool we possess in our risk-management arsenal. The foundation has to be in place for creative, innovative and successful in-service training sessions to occur. If this task falls into your lap, you must put forth the required time and effort into building this foundation, so that you and your staff/instructors will be successful. Your success or failure will be evident every day in the performance of your lifeguard staff. Good lifeguards are not born; they are made and molded by hard-working, caring aquatics professionals.