In-Service Training: Populations with Special Health Needs

As you plan your in-service trainings, we encourage you to incorporate skill-based training into each session. Creating trainings that are realistic and conducted in real-time helps prepare lifeguards to know what to expect—and how they might feel—if an aquatic event were to happen. That’s why, throughout the Not On My Watch series, we’ll incorporate an in-service topic of the week with an example of a scenario you can use to train your staff.

Topic: Populations with Special Health Needs

It is important to prepare your aquatic staff to not only assist any patrons with special health needs during regularly-planned activities, but also to respond appropriately in case of an emergency. There are numerous types of disabilities and each may require that your staff act differently in order to meet the needs of the specific individual. In general though, lifeguards will need to:

  • Recognize individuals with various challenges and communicate effectively with them
  • Be able to safely and efficiently assist each of them in case of need
  • Be proactive to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from becoming an emergency
  • Modify rescue protocols and procedures; regularly practice how to assist these patrons
  • Increase guard-to-swimmer ratios to provide adequate protection in pools that include groups of swimmers with disabilities

Below we have created a scenario that you can use with your staff. Please feel free to print this off and use during your in-service training.

A young child and their caregiver are using your pool one afternoon. When they entered your facility, they disclosed that the child has special health needs. That information is shared with all the lifeguards to ensure that the child is consistently assisted in a supportive and professional manner. Because the child is identified as a high-risk swimmer, they are wearing a life jacket and the caregiver is swimming with them at all times. After some time has passed, the child’s life jacket seems to become loose and they are now struggling in the pool. 

  • Time how long it takes the guard to identify the child and respond.
  • Once a response is initiated, rehearse a complete rescue scenario.
  • Debrief the experience with the guard. Some sample questions can be found on our website.

* You can also use our sample In-Service Training Framework as you plan your trainings for the summer.