Lifeguarding is a popular summer job for people who love the water, and sometimes it even turns into a career. Whether you’ll be working at a pool or beach, you have a great deal of responsibility. This can be intimidating. And other factors can make it even more so, like when you have to monitor large crowds, lots of kids, or people who’ve been drinking. Plus, the lifeguard’s work environment can be pretty harsh, physically speaking, due to heat, humidity, sun, and glare off the water.
The keys are to be prepared, remember and respect your training, and have confidence in your abilities. We’ve compiled some tips for new lifeguards that help you take care of yourself and remain vigilant so you can better take care of all those swimmers.
Tips for New Lifeguards
- For convenience, have a designated lifeguard bag where you keep everything you need for work, like your uniform, whistle, towel, CPR mask, etc.; keep a sweatshirt or other clothing in there so you’re prepared for a cold front or rain, too.
- Bring a large insultated water bottle and drink water constantly through your shift; if you don’t, you can quickly get a headache, feel queasy, and become dehydrated.
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection so you can see better and stay safer from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
- Slather on water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater at least every two hours and after going into the water; make sure you cover all your exposed skin.
- A brimmed hat or visor is helpful for keeping the sun out of your eyes and preventing discomfort.
- Eat healthy snacks or meals to stave off hunger and help you stay alert and energized through your shift.
- Talk to your fellow lifeguards who have more experience; ask for tips, especially those specific to the layout, population, and rules of your particular site.
- Be prepared to administer basic first aid for things like scrapes or jellyfish stings (depending to some extent on your location, obviously).
- Beaches have all sorts of different rules, so memorize all of them if you’re working at the shore.
- Also, memorize the various hand signals used to communicate with other lifeguards at your location.
- Make sure you’re 100 percent clear on the boundaries of your zone.
- Master and alternate between the side-to-side scan and the up-and-down scan.
- Identify high-risk swimmers and remain alert to their presence.
- Never assume parents are keeping an eye on their kids.
- Some children and teenagers test you and challenge your authority; be patient but unwavering.
- People themselves are often more dangerous than the water; be prepared for some to resist your instructions or rescue.
- Don’t get distracted by attractive swimmers or fellow lifeguards!
- All that water and sun will take a toll on your skin; brush up on tips for preventing and treating dry swimmer’s skin.
- Remember that your most important responsibility isn’t saving people—it’s preventing rescues; be proactive and speak up firmly but politely when you see potentially dangerous circumstances or behaviors.
- Review your lifeguard skill book or training manual periodically to keep all the information fresh in your mind and to keep up your confidence.