Having enough qualified lifeguards is crucial for any aquatics facility. Aquatics directors know the lifeguards they hire must be certified; however, there are multiple organizations that certify lifeguards. These certification programs are similar but include different training requirements and sometimes teach different skills. It’s important for facilities to be aware of what each certification program includes so their guards are prepared for whatever they encounter in the facility’s pool.
Lifeguard Certification Programs
Here are a few organizations that will certify lifeguards.
- American Red Cross
- Ellis & Associates
- The National Aquatic Safety Company
- Starfish Aquatics Institute
- YMCA (offered by local branches)
While core lifeguarding skills are taught by each of these organizations, there are differences in teaching methodology and philosophy. Knowing this can help aquatics directors make sure they hire guards with the necessary skills. For example, Ellis & Associates-certified guards aren’t taught single-person rescues, as all their rescues are supposed to be done as a team. If the facility has just one guard for their pool at some points in the day, this will be an issue. It’s important for a facility to have all their lifeguards certified by the same organization. If a rescue is necessary, all the lifeguards must be on the same page and working together. Otherwise there might be conflict or debate about what to do at the most critical and dangerous time.
Lifeguard Certification Best Practices
Knowing the differences between certification programs can help directors make hiring and training decisions. While guards may need to be re-certified with a different program, depending on the facility, it’s always important to verify that lifeguards are competent, regardless of what program certified them. Ensure that lifeguards have and can demonstrate the skills they’ll need for their position.
Lifeguards should also receive site-specific training. Every facility has different policies and procedures lifeguards must know. Directors must also supervise and regularly assess their guards. This includes requiring monthly in-service training and supervision while the guards are on the job.