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Be aware of certified lifeguards at favorite pools

Sure, August is here, but there’s still time to enjoy everyone’s favorite summertime athletic activity: swimming — or just lazing — in the pool.

But how can you ensure that the lifeguards watching over your kids at your favorite swimming hole are up to snuff?

First, says Bill Bigham, a veteran lifeguard and lifeguard trainer instructor who also teaches American Red Cross first aid and CPR, “You could ask them: What is the agency that certifies them?”

Lifeguards should be certified through an accredited program such as that operated by the American Red Cross. The Red Cross’ program probably is the most well-known such program among laymen, and, Bigham says, “most lifeguard training in Las Vegas is Red Cross.”

Southern Nevada Health District inspectors verify that lifeguards are appropriately certified at the public pools they inspect. But certified lifeguards also should have a card or document indicating that, so don’t be shy about asking a lifeguard or pool manager for proof of certification.

Take a look around and note how many lifeguards are working the pool. While health district inspectors verify that public pools are staffed by the proper number of lifeguards, Bigham says a good rule of thumb is, “if you see four (lifeguard) chairs, there probably ought to be four lifeguards.”

Also look at how lifeguards are doing their jobs. “Are the lifeguards alert? Are they sleeping? Are they yakking on their cellphones?” Bigham says.

Then, after doing all of that, understand this: No matter how good those lifeguards may be, you, not they, are your kids’ primary lifeguard.

Bigham has seen parents who drop off their kids at pools and then disappear. But, he says, a lifeguard may have to watch 50 kids in his or her given area, so nothing offers more protection to a young swimmer than a watchful parent.

Ultimately, “you kind of have to say, ‘Well, nothing is 100 percent certain,'” Bigham says. “But it gets back to: The parent needs to be supervising their children.”

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