Tips and Tricks for Proper Lifeguard Positioning and Visibility

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 that lifeguards are properly positioned is to thoroughly test each area of responsibility. This will confirm that there are no blindspots or areas that inhibit the lifeguard’s ability to see from the top of the water to the bottom of the pool. Below are a few tips and tricks when going through the process of identifying proper lifeguard positions.

Optimal Positioning 
When you begin the process of identifying a lifeguard’s area of responsibility, an optimal position is generally:

If you are completing this process with a natural body of water where you are unable to see the bottom, skip to step four. 

Identifying Glare
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).

Testing for Response
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.

Positioning Map
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.

Utilizing In-Service Trainings
Establishing proper lifeguard positioning is an ongoing process. Utilizing in-service time to educate guards on how to properly position themselves is an excellent opportunity to teach others and accomplish the process. We encourage you to do this when people are in the water in order to replicate the typical pool environment. Doing this during in-service training also allows you to:

  • Educate lifeguards on the purpose of identifying proper lifeguard positions
  • Teach lifeguards the process, and empower them to be involved
  • Educate lifeguards on the positioning maps, and why certain positions exist
  • Empower lifeguards to speak up if they are unable to see something in their area of responsibility

Additional Resources 

  • In-Service Training: Testing Your Lifeguard Positions—Download this sample in-service training topic and common scenario where we see improper lifeguard positioning contribute to the delay in identifying a victim.
  • Step-by-Step Lifeguard Placement Video—View our step-by-step videos on Summit Area YMCA’s pool deck where we go through the process of identifying proper lifeguard placement.