Think about your lifeguards. How many thousands of rescues have they made? In reality, most pool lifeguards have made very few, if any. But it’s essential that operators provide training and education to ensure guards’ level of physical competency and to strengthen their various skills.

The goal is to help ensure that lifeguards are ready to recognize, respond, rescue and resuscitate a victim at all times — the 5 R’s of a complete lifeguard.

Lifeguards need comprehensive and ongoing practice to maintain readiness, so in-service training must be mandatory, relevant and job-specific. In-service training for guards should include:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • Automated external defibrillator.
  • First aid and other emergency protocols specific to the facility's emergency action plan.
  • Resuscitation and first aid treatment protocols. Only protocols consistent with current Emergency Cardiovascular Care Update and/or ILCOR guidelines should be used during pre-service or in-service training specific to the aquatics facility.
  • Emergency response training. Lifeguards should receive monthly emergency response training specific to the facility.
  • Aerobic fitness. Physical conditioning for the specific aquatics facility should meet aerobic and anaerobic energy systems requirements for that venue. 
  • Emergency action plan preparedness. The facility's lifeguards and other aquatic safety team members should practice the emergency action plan.
  • Closure procedures. Guards and other aquatic safety team members should receive training on all closure issues specific to the facility.

You might also cover preventive lifeguarding, surveillance and defined zones of patron surveillance for the aquatics facility, victim recognition, and the level of professionalism needed to be a lifeguard. Once training is scheduled, make sure you have the paperwork in order, as a record of the session. If the in-service is not documented, it basically did not take place. Have each participating guard sign documentation, along with the individual conducting the training, and keep it on file.

The record also should contain the topic or activity covered, date and time, and possible suggestions for improvement. 

About the Instructors

Roy Fielding is the program coordinator for the Exercise Science degree program in the Department of Kinesiology as well as director of aquatics for the Department of Recreational Services at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has assisted the American Red Cross for the past 12 years with the development and implementation of the Lifeguard and Lifeguard Management programs, in addition to serving as a chapter volunteer for more than 40 years. He is a member of the National American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, and vice chairman of two Model Aquatic Health Code technical committees.

Jill White is the founder of the Starfish Aquatics Institute. She has developed innovative lifeguard programs, and written several training textbooks. In 2011 Jill received the World Waterpark Association’s Al Turner Commitment to Excellence Award for leadership and consistent example of business and operational excellence.