More work goes into running a public pool than just blowing a whistle and sitting in a chair. I recently spent some time with local lifeguards to find out what their job entails at the Norwalk Rec.
Norwalk’s Ernsthausen Recreation Center has a decent-sized pool area with two indoor pools, one outdoor pool, a diving board, splash pad and outdoor slide and playground. There also is a whirlpool, sauna and steam room available.
I worked with lifeguards Sela Berry and Catie Houser. Houser was headguarding for the afternoon shift. She said her job involves a lot of customer service.
Head guards sign out life jackets, answer questions, assist with first-aid situations and filling out incident reports, in addition to other duties.
Something interesting about lifeguards is how they check the pool chemicals. For example, the splash pad has to be checked every hour to make sure the pH of the water matches the information in the system. If this is off, it has to be changed manually and reset.
Every 25 minutes, the lifeguards rotate to a different chair. I noticed a lot of teamwork amongst the staff; they were helping each other out and staying on the same page.
Working at the Rec can be unpredictable depending on the amount of people using the facilities, the weather and activities taking place at the Rec. Sometimes customers can be very angry, especially when there is a closing of a pool or a sauna.
The lifeguards are very good at staying calm and doing their best to try to keep patrons happy, although the priority is making sure everyone is following the rules.
Remember, lifeguards don’t set the rules, they just enforce them.
The job involves a lot of sitting and watching, but this is all to be preventative.
“We are very fortunate here that we don’t have daily rescues. We focus a lot on preventative, which is the rule enforcement, the seeing something before it becomes a problem,” Houser said.
I saw this in action. When someone was running on the slippery floor, a lifeguard asked them to “walk please!” or when a young one was climbing the handrail, she was asked to stand on the ground instead. Preventing accidents is very important, but it involves a lot of training and paying attention.
In order to be a lifeguard at the Norwalk Rec, you have to go through training to be certified. It’s also important to have the physical abilities the job requires such as carrying someone out of the pool during a rescue.
The Rec center can get very busy, especially on hot summer days, which can be frustrating, but the lifeguards are good at being attentive to the patrons and doing their best to keep everyone safe.
“When we’re really busy, it’s different than a water front or even a waterpark. It’s not a one size fits all. The duties and the expectations remain the same but the environments can vary,” Houser said.
Being a lifeguard doesn’t mean sitting in a chair for hours blowing a whistle. It means preventing accidents and tragedies, being attentive and keeping everyone safe so people can have fun and enjoy the facility.
Make sure to follow the instructions the lifeguards provide, respect the job they do and appreciate the accidents they prevent.