The 5 Parts of a Safe Lifeguard Rotation

Few people outside of the aquatics profession understand how truly exhausting lifeguarding can be. Constant vigilance mixed with environmental elements makes surveillance a chore. To combat both physical and emotional fatigue, guards should be rotated at least every 30 minutes with an additional 10-minute break every hour.

Lifeguard rotations are an important step in keeping guards focused and alert. If done improperly, however, a lifeguard rotation can be the perfect opportunity for a swimmer to slip underwater undetected. Here are the steps to an efficient and effective lifeguard rotation.

1. Before the Lifeguard Rotation

Before approaching the on-duty lifeguard, the relief lifeguard should:

  • Hydrate fully and ensure that they are prepared for duty.
  • Ensure that all necessary rescue equipment in their coverage area is easily accessible and in proper working order.
  • Scan the entire zone of coverage from bottom to top.

2. Initiating the Lifeguard Rotation

After the relief guard has completed all of the steps listed above, they may approach the on-duty lifeguard and initiate the rotation. The following steps should be completed in order to safely initiate a lifeguard rotation:

  • The relief lifeguard must actively scan the water while approaching the on-duty lifeguard.
  • As the relief guard approaches, the on-duty guard must also maintain constant surveillance of the water.
  • The relief lifeguard then verbally activates the lifeguard rotation by asking if the on-duty guard is prepared to rotate.

3. Sharing Important Information

If the on-duty lifeguard is prepared to rotate, they officially begin the lifeguard rotation by sharing important information about the area of coverage. NOTE: While sharing information BOTH lifeguards must actively scan the zone of coverage. The on-duty lifeguard should:

4. The Actual Lifeguard Rotation

Once all of the preparatory and preventative lifeguard rotations steps have been completed, the lifeguards are ready for the actual rotation. The relief and on-duty lifeguards should keep the following in mind:

  • The relief lifeguard becomes the active, on-duty lifeguard as soon as the original guard begins exiting the stand.  This ensures that at least one guard is actively scanning the water at all times.
  • The lifeguard that is actively scanning the water must have a rescue tube. Ideally, both lifeguards will have their own rescue tube.
  • The original lifeguard once again becomes the on-duty lifeguard as soon as they get off of the stand. They must actively scan the water as the relief guard climbs into position.

5. Finalizing the Lifeguard Rotation

The relief lifeguard finalizes the lifeguard rotation by:

  • Actively scanning the zone of coverage once they are comfortably situated in the stand.
  • Verbally indicating to the original lifeguard that they are now prepared to become the on-duty lifeguard.

Once the relief lifeguard has officially taken over surveillance of the zone of coverage, the original lifeguard should actively scan the water while transitioning to their next station.

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