It is essential that your lifeguards are properly positioned so they can identify and respond to a potential victim as quickly as possible. The best way to ensure this is to thoroughly test each area of responsibility for visibility and reachability.
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Each area of responsibility should have no blind spots or areas that inhibit the lifeguard’s ability to see, from the top of the water to the bottom of the pool. Here’s how to test each area and equip guards to understand positioning:
Utilize In-Service Training
Utilize in-service time to educate guards on how to properly position themselves, empower them to get involved in the process, and speak up if they are unable to see something in their area of responsibility. We encourage you to do this when people are in the water, as this will replicate the typical pool environment.
Begin the process by placing a lifeguard in an optimal position. An optimal position is generally:
- At the edge of the pool
- Where the lifeguard’s back is to the light
- In an elevated chair. (Lifeguards should never guard from a standard height chair or lower as every inch of elevation reduces the size of blind spots considerably.)
Eliminate Environmental Factors
Once a lifeguard is in an optimal position, have them identify whether or not they are able to see their entire area of responsibility from the top to the bottom. If glare limits a guard’s ability to see an area of their water, we suggest identifying where the glare is coming from. Some different questions to ask in order to eliminate the environmental factors are:
- Is there something on the pool deck causing the glare?
- Sometimes objects light in color can cause glare on the pool deck.
- Are there windows causing glare on the pool deck?
- Can you purchase blinds or tint the windows in order to eliminate the glare?
- Would elevating the lifeguard chair eliminate the glare?
- Before purchasing a new chair, have the lifeguard stand up in their current guard chair to see if elevating the chair would help.
If the above solutions do not work or do not eliminate the glare, consider the following:
- Adjust the guard’s position until a position can be found for that area of responsibility that eliminates all blind spots
- Keep the lifeguard’s position the same but reduce the shape or size of the area of responsibility to exclude the area that cannot be seen
- Add an additional guard to cover that area from a different angle
This process will help to determine how many lifeguards you need to minimally cover your pool(s).
Optimal Areas of Responsibility
Once an optimal position has been selected, test to make sure that the lifeguard can identify and respond to a victim anywhere within the area of responsibility. If it is determined that all areas of responsibility cannot be guarded properly, it is important that your organization reconsiders all positions, staffing and programming. If needed, areas of the pool should be closed.
Lifeguard Positioning Maps
Once all positions have been identified, it is essential to communicate clearly and precisely with lifeguards about exactly where their area of responsibility is. Create positioning maps that show the entirety of the pool and where each area of responsibility begins and ends. Remember, it is best practice to have those overlap to ensure that no area gets missed. After the maps are created, post them in a convenient location for all to see.