Summertime is the perfect time to enjoy a refreshing trip to the pool. All over the country, swimmers of every age can be spotted splashing happily as they cool off in crystal-blue water.
But most of us never stop to consider the quiet sentinels who stand by while we enjoy a quick recreational dip.
Yes, the typical lifeguard job description often includes whistle-blowing, and/or alerting crestfallen kids that it’s time for a ten-minute adult swim. Yet it also involves quite a bit more.
In fact, according to The American Red Cross, lifeguard training and certification courses can be pretty involved. They include both written testing and hands-on skills assessment.
Instruction frequently incorporates first aid essentials and CPR. Most students are also taught how to use an automated external defibrillator.
And sure, many lifeguards wind up sitting in the sun or standing at the pool’s edge wearing sunglasses. What they’re actually doing, however, is keeping a watchful eye on the swimmers all around them.
Often, that attentive concentration literally makes the difference between life and death. Just ask Daniel Worley.
Worley is a 16-year old from Canton, North Carolina. He’s a student at Pisgah High School and he’s also a lifeguard at the local Canton pool.
Unlike some pools, the Canton facility has its very own three-foot diving board.
Town Manager Jason Burrell told The Mountaineer that some unsupervised pools avoid installing diving boards altogether since they require added safety precautions.
But Burrell explained that the newly-designed Canton pool, formally called the Champion Credit Union Aquatic Center, has a fully-trained team of lifeguards on duty at all times.
“Without things like the diving board and the slide and the splash pad,” he said, “it would be more like a giant concrete square in the ground.”
Worley’s training and vigilance certainly paid off during a busy pool day recently. He explained to The Mountaineer that a woman went off the diving board, then appeared to enter the water on her back.
The young guard instantly shifted into high alert when he noticed that the woman failed to resurface immediately. “She just came back up slow,” he recalled, “and she talked and said, ‘help me’ really quietly.”
By that time, Worley didn’t need any prompting whatsoever. He pulled the struggling female swimmer to the shallow end, and helped fellow lifeguards position her on a backboard as emergency responders arrived.
Keith Corbeil, Canton’s certified pool operator and recreation program coordinator, told The Mountaineer that he’s hand-picked his 15-person staff to react in exactly this manner.
Corbeil wants community residents to understand that his team regularly conducts rigorous safety drills and, as he put it in this particular case, “the training paid off big time.”
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