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What it takes to be a lifeguard

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Posted at 5:00 AM, May 18, 2021

They are often the quiet, yet highly visible, part of your summer fun. You probably quickly forget they're even there once you're in the water. Lifeguards, sitting up high, slowly scanning the water.

Alex Minardo is the founder of Euvori Aquatics. His Valley company not only trains lifeguards but also places them at some of the Valley's most popular and packed pools.

"Lifeguarding is all about prevention now," said Minardo. "I think that's a big misconception that the public has - is that lifeguards are meant to be responding, resuscitating all the time and if you're not doing that, what are you really there for? When in reality, we're supposed to be preventing accidents."

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But before any lifeguard can be perched up high over the pool, they're screened for their skill level.

Applicants need to swim a lap with the rescue tube under their chest, then another lap without it to see if they're fit enough to do a rescue.

If you like the shallow end, this will be tough. Applicants need to retrieve a 10-pound brick from the deep end. In this case, it's 13 feet below. They'll also need to tread water, without their hands, for 60 seconds.

A lifeguard will need to learn the small, subtle signs of a swimmer in trouble. Those signs are not necessarily a person yelling and splashing around.

"(If) they have the energy and the oxygen to be able to breathe and to be able to scream for help and things like that, they're probably not in trouble," said Minardo. "So the people that really are in trouble are super silent. They're just barely staying above the surface of the water and then eventually they slip beneath the surface and go into drowning."

To make sure everyone is safe and can be easily watched, the pool is broken up into zones.

"It's called the 30-second standard. So basically, we just have to be able to...identify that someone is... in distress or drowning within 10 seconds and then reach the furthest point within 20 seconds of the zone."

If someone is struggling to stay above the water or has slipped under, lifeguards are trained in a "front rescue" when a person is conscious and a "rear rescue" for when a person is unconscious. They're able to start CPR in the water and then backboard the patient. They're taught to manually stabilize the head and neck in the water in case there's a spinal injury. In the worst-case scenario, they'll have to perform CPR with a defibrillator.

The goal is that you never get to any of these points but just in case you do need help, help is a quick scan away.

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