Rescue Manoeuvres

When I was 18 I joined the largest pool management company in my local city. That was my first paid job and my first real work experience.

To become a certified lifeguard/pool operator I had to pass a swimming test, which included swimming 500 yards, surface diving to a depth of 7 – 10 feet, and retrieving a 10 pound object and returning it to the surface. Participation in a lifeguard-training course was required as well. After successful completion, I received my Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate, lifeguard certification, and first aid certificate, which was valid for two years.

Before I applied for a job, I’ve never thought about how hard it could be for an 18 year-old girl who had never been responsible for people’s lives before.

After training I started working as a lifeguard at the condominium community. The pool wasn’t too big and the majority of the visitors were families and kids. A lot of kids.

Every Tuesday morning I was responsible for at least 30 kids from the local church. I simply could not wrap my mind around the number of children who knew they could not swim and would still beg me to let them jump off the diving board into 9 feet of water. One time I lost my attention for a few minutes and a little girl who couldn’t swim, dove into the water and nearly drowned. There is one thing - drowning doesn’t look like drowning. Except for in rare circumstances, people are physiologically unable to call out for help. I was lucky to notice that the girl’s head was very low in the water, her mouth was open and it was clear she needed help. I had to jump in to rescue her.

That was the first time I realized that it wasn’t just a summer job. There was an increased risk of injury and I was the one responsible for its prevention. The idea that the lifeguard has to monitor the entire pool for several hours a day, plus the physical nature of the job, puts into perspective just how hard a job is.

Here’s my BIG advice for all of the young people starting their first jobs: always take it seriously. Performing a task without training could be very dangerous. Besides, if you are thinking about being a lifeguard, forget about lying by the pool and getting a tan. It is a huge responsibility. Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning and two of them are children aged 14 or younger. Behind motor vehicle crashes, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death.

-Contributed by Margarita