Lifeguard Surveillance and Prevention

One sign of lifeguard effectiveness is the lifeguard’s ability to quickly and correctly recognize distressed and drowning victims. Often, the victim is within arm’s reach of family members or other facility users who do not see the instinctive drowning response of an active victim or the lifeless victim on the bottom.

Ironically, when lifeguards are not doing a good job of scanning their area of responsibility and actively watching for hazards, dangerous practices, and victim behaviors, someone in the water eventually notices the victim and contacts the lifeguard. It is almost always a bad sign when the public informs the lifeguard of a victim in the water!

Preventing Injuries

Prevention should be the goal of every lifeguard. It is far easier to prevent drowning and other injuries at an aquatic facility than to deal with the consequences of an emergency once it has occurred.

Preventive lifesaving requires all the following:

  • A “safety aware” attitude by lifeguards and support staff
  • An understanding of general and facility-specific safety rules, potential hazards, and dangerous practices
  • An understanding of the instinctive drowning response and other victim behaviors
  • Proper positioning of a sufficient number of lifeguards to supervise the entire facility
  • Continuous, active scanning of the facility by all lifeguards
  • Active enforcement of safety rules to stop hazards and dangerous practices
  • Periodic rotation of lifeguards, including break periods

Safety Rules, Markings, and Communication

Pool RulesSIGN-dangerous currentLifeguards should be aware of general and facility-specific safety rules and other safety communication measures used at their facility. This is part of developing an overall “safety first” attitude and maintaining effective surveillance and prevention in your area of responsibility. When lifeguards enforce safety rules in any aquatic facility, they are eliminating hazardous conditions and restricting the behavior of facility users to that which is safe for themselves and others.

No DivingAlthough facility operators post safety rules and give other indications of water depth, conditions, etc., it is generally understood that signs, markings, flags, and illustrations alone are insufficient to control the behavior of facility users. Where lifeguards, pool monitors, and water watchers are present, they must be vocal, enforcing safety rules and educating facility users about the meaning of flags, depth markers, buoys, etc.

Typical Safety Rules and Regulations

Many safety rules are universal and must be enforced at every aquatic facility. Others are specific to the facility based on the type of aquatic environment, the size and shape of the swimming area, the equipment and play structures in use, state and federal regulations, etc. Typical safety rules and regulations follow.