No Texting While Lifeguarding
Leave cell phones, iPods, magazines, and all other external distractions at home.
A responsible lifeguard will avoid all distractions. While constant connectivity can make a lot of tasks easier, lifeguarding will always require constant vigilance. Most folks agree that distractions of any kind are detrimental to effective lifeguarding, so why do we continue to find so many reports of lifeguards texting and reading while on duty?
The Head Down Dilemma
So what’s the big deal with texting while lifeguarding? At the most basic level, the problem with text messaging is something we call the Head Down Dilemma. It is difficult to send a text, and impossible to read a text, without looking directly at the phone. And no matter how good of a multi-tasker you are, taking your eyes away from the pool for even a split second could cost a swimmer their life.
Lifeguard Texting in the News
We think texting while lifeguarding – and texting while driving for that matter – is so clearly dangerous, that it is frustrating when story after story makes it into the news. We know that lifeguards do amazing, and often selfless, work, but these stories are a major black eye for guards all around the world.
- Texts From the Lifeguard Chair – NYTimes.com
Preventing Lifeguard Distractions
Institute a Zero Tolerance Policy
No Aquatics Director would tolerate a lifeguard chatting face-to-face with their friends for an entire shift. That same level of intolerance is necessary when it comes to guards text messaging or reading while on duty. West Bend highly recommends instituting a strict, one-and-done policy. Any lifeguard caught text messaging while on duty should be terminated immediately. No excuses. Even when organizations struggle with lifeguard shortages, safety is critical and zero tolerance is required for a safe pool environment.
Remove all Temptations
While text messaging is the hot topic with lifeguarding right now, there are countless distractions in pools across the country. More and more pools have decided to play music in or around the pool. Music is great, but lifeguards should NEVER have access to change or adjust the music selections. We all know that changing a single song can often lead to creating a new playlist, which can often lead to becoming the pool DJ. Don’t even give lifeguards the chance to be distracted… lock these things behind closed doors.
Suspect a Lifeguard is Texting? Drill Them.
If you suspect a lifeguard is texting, but you’re having a hard time proving it, drill them. Toss a dive brick into the pool or have them demonstrate proper water entry technique. If a lifeguard is texting, one of two things will happen… they’ll either ruin a perfectly good phone or they’ll take the phone out before entering the water. Either way… lesson learned.
Provide Pocketless Lifeguard Attire
All lifeguards should be wearing pool-approved clothing. Next time your facility purchases swim suits or sweats, make sure the clothing has no pockets. Don’t forget about the pouch on sweatshirts! With no where to conceal a phone, lifeguards will undoubtedly be less inclined to bring a phone, book, or other distraction with them onto the pool deck.
Empower Patrons and Other Lifeguards
This is the best, most effective method for curbing distracted lifeguarding. You can’t be everywhere. Empower the entire lifeguard crew, and the pool’s patrons, to speak up when they suspect a lifeguard is distracted while on duty. After all… lifeguarding, and water safety, are a community effort.