The American Red Cross is making a number of changes to update its health and safety offerings, and to transform its aquatics and other life-saving programs to deliver stronger courses more consistently across the country.

As we undertake this transformation, we know that it also means changes for our authorized providers and other partners, and we’re working hard to answer questions and address concerns.

We believe the changes that have been made are good for the Red Cross and good for the people who depend on us for learn-to-swim, lifesaving and other courses. To date, much of the attention has centered on pricing changes, but there’s much more to the story.

There are a lot of great benefits from our changes that will continue to bring value to our partners:

Updated programs. We launched the Next Generation of Red Cross Training last year with the release of first aid, CPR and AED programs for lay responders and professional rescuers — all with two-year certifications. Already in 2012, the Red Cross has released the new Lifeguarding program, which includes a Shallow Water Lifeguarding course and Waterfront Skills and Waterpark Skills modules. Coming soon is the Lifeguard Management course and updates to the Aquatic Examiner Service.

More training options. To help meet the training needs of employers nationwide, blended learning options for most of our most popular courses now are available.

Red Cross Learning Center. The Learning Center, which is now operational system-wide, allows instructors to manage their training records, register for training, and complete program updates and new training. It also allows instructors to manage course records and certificates for courses taught.

The Training Support Center (1.800.RED.CROSS, or 800.733.2767). This center has dedicated resources to provide customers with health and safety course schedules and registration information. Instructors may contact the Training Support Center for assistance with course records, certificates and instructor updates. 

The Instructor’s Corner redcross.org/instructorscorner. This area on our Website provides support to Red Cross instructors who deliver our lifesaving training programs. Instructor’s Corner includes course updates, digital materials, teaching tools, course record forms and more.

The Refresher Center redcrossrefresher.com. This was launched in spring 2011 to provide course participants free access to short, online refreshers, including interactive quizzes, games, learning activities, videos and more to keep their knowledge and skills fresh between certifications. While these refreshers are optional, we recommend that participants complete a refresher at least once every quarter. Refreshers now are available for first aid/CPR/AED content, and more will be added.

The Red Cross remains steadfast in its mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies, and part of our vision is to reach more people in more communities. We are continuing to provide high-quality health and safety programs, and in our new structure, we will do so in a consistent manner — ensuring that every person who takes Red Cross training receives the same high-quality experience across the nation — while recovering our costs. To make this vision a reality, we have fundamentally restructured our operations and standardized our course portfolio and course fees.

It is well-known that the changes to the fee structure for learn-to-swim courses was an area of difficulty for some of our aquatics partners. We heard that either the timing or structure of our pricing changes would make it more difficult for authorized providers to reach their communities with these lifesaving skills. This outcome runs counter to our mission, and we’re committed to working with our authorized providers to expand, not shrink, the reach of their learn-to-swim programs, while at the same time making them economically viable for the future.

For authorized providers, bundled pricing can help supply additional value. Those offering lifeguarding courses should consider all the certifications required by their agencies — and schedule them as bundles. As a bundled offering, the main course and add-ons, such as Waterfront Skills, Waterpark Skills, Administering Emergency Oxygen, Bloodborne Pathogens Training and, for our California partners, First Aid for Public Safety Personnel, have a maximum authorized provider fee of only $35. To take advantage of this savings, the courses must be scheduled essentially as one large course.

The Red Cross has made another important change: For the first time, we have a team of Red Cross professionals throughout the country dedicated to aquatics. Their responsibilities include ensuring that high-quality aquatics training is available and working with authorized providers to help meet your training needs — whether that is by helping coordinate trainings or moving instructor trainers through the process. This team has been working to reconnect with all the authorized providers in their areas of responsibility. If you’ve not yet been in communication with your Red Cross aquatics representative, please call 800.733.2767 so the connection can be made.

There is no doubt that as the changes have been implemented, there have been significant challenges, but the Red Cross is moving forward in a strong and robust fashion, and we’re continuing our lifesaving mission.

We are continuing the great relationships we have with so many of our long-term partners in parks and recreation departments, pool management companies, YMCAs, schools and universities by training their lifeguards and Water Safety instructors and reaching hundreds of thousands of participants with our Lifeguarding and Learn-to-Swim training. And we’re signing agreements with new customers — some from new facilities, and others who are looking for new providers.

We’re also proud that many lifeguards are being recognized with the American Red Cross Lifesaving Award for the Professional Responder for their lifesaving actions.

And to ensure that we reach more people in underserved communities, the Red Cross is identifying pockets of need where we can work with our authorized providers to make learn-to-swim programs available to those who cannot afford it.

A great deal has changed over this past year — and the transformation is not yet complete. Even though we have implemented this national structure, we are very aware that more work needs to be done, and we urge people with questions or concerns to contact us.

The Red Cross continues to be committed to the mission of providing quality programs and to serving communities. We strive to continue our long-standing partnership with the aquatics industry to provide safe aquatics facilities and to educate our communities on how to prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies and ultimately, to prevent drowning.