Feature Article - January 2015
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Safer Waters for All

MAHC Created to Improve Pool Safety

By Deborah L. Vence

Lifeguard Training

Lifeguards are charged with the task of supervising the safety of swimmers at waterparks, swimming pools and beaches. But lifeguards need a break, too, something that Sackett said is addressed in the MAHC, stating that lifeguards shouldn't be in a position for more than 60 minutes at a time.

Proper rotation procedures are important, he said, adding that facilities need to always ensure that when a chair changing is taking place that someone is still watching the water. In addition, there should be a supervisor on staff who understands what the lifeguard is doing, the chair changes and that the lifeguards are adhering to the training they are taught.

However, it isn't always easy finding enough lifeguards.

"What we often hear from our partners that we work with in parks and recreation and what we've been hearing a lot of this past year is the difficulty in getting staff and maintaining staff through the summers," said Stephanie Shook, senior product manager, aquatics, Red Cross, Washington, D.C.

"It continues to be a struggle as people return to college or maybe just get burned out. There's a tendency to need staff at the end of summer," she said.

And, the health care laws have had an effect on the industry as well.

"Organizations are still making decisions based on whether they are going to pay benefits. So, that hit the industry, but lifeguards being part-time employees in seasonal fashion … those are not benefited positions," she added.

"We saw lifeguard training numbers go up a bit, a slight increase in Red Cross lifeguard training," she said.

In fact, the Red Cross recently completed the development of a new course that provides lifeguard training for shallow waters.

"Waterparks and recreation facilities have shallow depth waters. Some don't even get above two or three feet of water," Shook said. "Typically, swimming rescues don't apply to that."

But, the Red Cross in October announced its new professional lifeguard certification for extreme shallow water and the launch of two new programs that are designed to increase safety at facilities employing lifeguards.

The new Red Cross Aquatic Attraction Lifeguarding course trains lifeguards specifically who are guarding attractions in extreme shallow water, defined as three feet or less. This includes winding rivers, catch pools, slide runouts, water play areas and slide dispatch.

The need for a new designation was first identified by the Red Cross Aquatics staff in response to inquiries from waterpark customers. Extreme growth in shallow water attractions has translated to the need for lifeguards who are better trained in this area.

"Especially in waterparks, there are more and more attractions, not just play pool stuff anymore," Shook said. "This is more targeted toward that specific need."

The new certification follows two other lifeguard certifications, which are deep water lifeguarding and shallow water lifeguarding (up to five feet).

Specific to the Aquatic Attraction Lifeguarding course are adjustments to skills for water that is three feet or less, including a simple assist from any direction; handling passive victims who are either on the surface or submerged; and removal from the water on a backboard. First aid training places emphasis on caring for head, neck and spinal injuries that could be common in extreme shallow water accidents. The course also includes all of the content of the Red Cross Waterpark Skills module.

And, as with other Red Cross lifeguarding offerings, lifeguards must demonstrate full water competency to qualify to take the course. For Aquatic Attraction Lifeguarding, potential lifeguards must pass a water competency prerequisite sequence test as well as conduct brick retrieval at three feet. Lifeguards who complete the course successfully also will receive first aid, CPR and AED certification.

Shook explained that with the third certification program, actual water rescue is more targeted.

"The swimming rescues are not included because [the lifeguards] can stand up, and so we modified it … to be done by someone who is standing up," Shook said.

"We modified some rescues to be done without the rescue tube. That's what's different," she added. "Also, [we taught] additional ways to remove someone who is unconscious from the water."