The Role of a Lifeguard in Ensuring Water Safety

Arizona has more private and public swimming pools that can be counted, and with good reason: with the incredibly hot summer temperatures here, the number of sunny days, and the need to keep cool during these trying times, the prevalence of swimming pools can make a world of difference. Whether you are old, young, or somewhere in between, there are few better ways to really cool off than by taking a quick dip in a pool.

The majority of private pools in the area do not have a lifeguard on duty. Most people opt to act as their own family’s lifeguard when a pool is in their backyard as opposed to hiring a professional. However, a number of public pools in Phoenix and the rest of Maricopa County do have lifeguards on duty at all times, leading patrons to wonder what role these lifeguards serve when it comes to safety.

Lifeguards are trained professionals who are intended to prevent swimming pool drownings and accidents by responding to threatening conditions. A typical lifeguard is certified in water rescue, is a strong swimmer, and is trained in CPR/AED first aid. A lifeguard must stay alert to conditions involving all swimmers and all individuals near a pool when that lifeguard is working, enabling the lifeguard to pass on safety information and warnings at the first sign of potential problems.

A lifeguard should be familiar with a pool’s rule and should take steps to ensure those rules are followed, including taking action if necessary. If it appears that an individual is engaging in dangerous conduct or that a person’s safety may be threatened for another reason, it is the responsibility of a lifeguard to verbally warn that individual or take physical action to promote safety if necessary.

Part of a lifeguard’s job is to monitor people in the water and to determine what risk they pose to themselves as they remain in the water. Typically, lifeguards identify swimmers as either normal swimmers, distressed swimmers, active drowning victims, or passive drowning victims. Normal swimmers are the typical individuals encountered in a pool. They are able to move about the water by themselves, remaining above water to breathe or surfacing with ease when breathing becomes necessary. The identification of distressed swimmers is critically important lifeguards as these are the swimmers who begin to show signs of trouble. They may be struggling in the water due to a lack of aquatic skills or due to fatigue. They may or may not need help from another individual to make it out of the water safely. Often, it can be difficult for a non-trained individual, even an adult, to identify who is a distressed swimmer when compared to other normal swimmers but lifeguards receive special training in this field, enabling them to spot those in need and to act when necessary. Active drowning victims are what most people consider to be a stereotypical drowning victim because they are actively fighting to remain above the water. They may be slapping at the water or flapping their arms while kicking their legs quickly in an attempt to keep their head above the water’s surface, allowing them to breathe and preventing them from drowning. Whenever a swimmer moves into the active drowning victim category, a lifeguard should act immediately to rescue that swimmer and bring him or her to the side of the pool, out of the water and away from harm. Contrary to popular belief, most people who drown do not meet the description of an active drowning victim but rather are passive drowning victims. These individuals do not struggle to stay afloat like an active drowning victim but rather are silently under the water, possibly having never struggled to remain above, where they remain partially or entirely submerged. A lifeguard must act immediately to rescue a passive drowning victim and to remove that victim from the water.

In the event that an active drowning victim, a passive drowning victim, or another swimmer needs emergency medical attention, a lifeguard must provide first aid until responders can arrive to take over and provide additional help. This may include CPR and/or the use of an AED, depending on whether a victim is breathing and whether that person has a heartbeat.

Failing to take the appropriate action may make a lifeguard liable for the injuries that result from a swimming pool accident, including any lasting physical harm suffered by a victim. The owners of a pool, the operators of that pool, and any other responsible for the incident may likewise be held liable if a victim or that victim’s family chooses to bring a civil suit for damages, an often sought form of relief that can lead to monetary compensation for those involved in water-related incidents. Victims have the right to work with a personal injury attorney of their choosing to ensure that their interests are protected at every step along the journey towards relief and help.

Prior Blog Entry:

Avoiding Car Accidents on the Loop 202, Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 5, 2016.

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