Lifeguards coordinate safe and enjoyable recreation for people at beaches, swimming pools and other bodies of water, through public relations, public education, accident prevention and rescue. They use their knowledge of currents and water safety to control bathers' movements and ensure that they swim in safety.
Should a bather need help, the lifeguard on duty should spot the situation immediately and rescue the bather. If a rescued bather has swallowed a lot of water or is suffering any form of injury, the lifeguard will perform basic first aid and call an ambulance if necessary.
Lifeguards place signs or barriers to warn of dangerous conditions or areas, and make sure users are aware of potential dangers. They may caution people behaving in an unsafe manner and expel those who refuse to cooperate. They are required to report incidents to management or other authorities.
Other duties can include: undertaking basic water quality control and testing procedures; maintaining rescue equipment; caring for lost children; performing basic administrative duties such as writing reports.
The work is varied and demanding. Lifeguards need to be alert at all times, in all kinds of weather conditions and even if there are no swimmers in the water, their presence is required on the beach or near the water. In summer, they have to sit for long hours while concentrating on the safety of bathers in their area.
Lifeguards sometimes do foot patrols along the water’s edge; others are part of a motorised patrol or members of rescue crews that patrol offshore in inflatable rubber boats. Sometimes they are involved in helicopter rescues.
Lifeguards need to maintain peak levels of physical fitness in order to swim quickly to a person in distress and be able to support the weight of the swimmer in the water, who may possibly be struggling. They have to take tests regularly to ensure their fitness and capabilities and participate voluntarily in most life-saving competitions.
They may improve, design and implement new emergency procedures. Lifeguards regularly practise rescue techniques with a team so that they can operate at maximum speed and efficiency when called upon.
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