There’s a job that is pretty well underrated in the modern age and it needs a little more promotion. That job is: Lifeguard. When you read that word, what’s the first image that came to mind? A person sitting in a high chair beside a pool or on a high deck at the beach? Just sitting there all day? Maybe yelling at people every once in a while? Sounds like an easy and/or boring job. Anyone could do it, right?
If your lifeguard is not doing anything at your local swim area, be grateful. That means you have a community that is educated in water skills and water safety. But, there are many places where this is not the case. In my area, where people come on vacation to go to the water, it’s painfully obvious that water skills don’t come naturally. And that is why you need lifeguards.
A lifeguard is not just someone who likes to swim. A lifeguard is not even just someone who can pull another person out of the water. Lifeguard certification consists of many specific saving techniques – ones that EMTs and Paramedics might not even know. There are precise ways to handle different emergency situations and skills that must be honed to perfection to avoid causing additional injury to a victim. A lifeguard is an emergency first responder and is essentially an ambulance in the water.
There is another element of being a lifeguard that elevates them above EMTs. (You wouldn’t think this to be the case, but it is.) When an ambulance is called and an EMT is sent to an accident scene, the damage is already done. The EMT can only keep things from getting worse. In the role of lifeguard, there is the opportunity to stop an accident from even happening in the first place. Lifeguards are trained to identify signs of distress and trouble and can respond before anything bad happens. Of course, this can be completely underappreciated, since the person being saved wasn’t in desperate need of assistance yet.
So the specialized skills of a lifeguard are beyond those of an EMT because an EMT is too late to the scene to help. If that isn’t impressive enough, consider what “late” means to a lifeguard: 20 seconds. Can you look out into a crowd of people, identify someone having problems and get to them in 20 seconds? And if you think that any good swimmer could be a substitute for a certified lifeguard, consider some of these.
Could you save a a struggling person without being drowned yourself? The victim isn’t trying to kill you and it’s nothing personal, it’s just self-preservation. Could you save a person with an injury without causing further injury? What if it was the neck? What if it was the spine? How long can you do CPR? You don’t stop until the ambulance gets there. How are you with heat? You’re in the sun for a long time.
Lifeguards are not beach bums and they are not Baywatch. They are trained professionals who save lives when needed and prevent bad situations from becoming disasters. They will be the ones who are first on the scene for emergency assistance, whether for cuts, broken bones, jellyfish stings, choking or even drowning. You may never see one in action, for which you should be grateful, but don’t discount the level of safety they provide.
I am almost always fascinated by trade magazines, because they illustrate how serious and passionate people are about their individual profession. For example, at my first jobs working at pizza shops, the store would have a subscription to Pizza Today. Yes, there was plenty going on in that industry, with techniques and technology to keep up on. So, check out Aquatics Intl and get an appreciation of a lifeguard’s world. They take it seriously and there is constant education and training happening there as well.