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What does a Beach Lifeguard do?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A beach lifeguard usually has many more job duties than watching swimmers from atop a tower. Many lifeguards are expected to patrol beaches on foot; some are responsible for driving to and maintaining the safety of large stretches of coastline beaches. Teaching safety-related classes as well as earning and renewing first aid/rescue qualifications are other common activities of a beach lifeguard.

The activities and tests required for beach lifeguards to maintain their professional qualifications vary depending on the standards set in different regions and countries. A beach lifeguard may be tested on his or her knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or open water skills. Open water lifeguards supervise swimmers away from the shore, such as those jumping in the ocean from a yacht or cruise ship. All types of lifeguards must be ready and able to give CPR to drowning or heart attack victims. CPR is also called mouth-to-mouth resuscitation since the rescuer blows air into the sufferer's mouth, while also applying pressure to the chest to try to restore proper heart and lung function.

Some beach lifeguards may teach CPR and other safety techniques to the public. Safe boating classes may also be offered by a beach lifeguard. Teams of lifeguards are often responsible for keeping several beaches in a regional area safe for the public. They may operate inflatable boats or four wheel drive vehicles in order to patrol coastlines. A beach lifeguard team member may communicate with other members using cellular phones or other wireless communication devices.

On smaller beach areas, the lifeguard may have chores such as cleaning. When the beach is open to the public, all lifeguards must supervise the swimmers and be prepared to provide emergency rescue or first aid services as needed. A beach lifeguard watches swimmers for signs of weakness, distress or panic to prepare to reach that swimmer quickly in order to try to prevent a drowning. Lifeguards may use poles or ropes to help weaker swimmers get to shore.

Most beach lifeguards patrol beaches by foot as well as monitor swimmers from a lifeguard tower chair. They must enforce beach rules if anyone is involved in unsafe or illegal activities on the property. A beach lifeguard typically posts signs stating beach regulations. Beach lifeguards may be paid or volunteer workers. They may work at river, ocean or lake beaches. Keeping a log book of rescues and other key events is a main responsibility of many beach lifeguards.

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Discussion Comments
By LifeguardHQ — On Mar 05, 2013

It's important to remember that the most important duty of a lifeguard isn't necessarily rescuing victims. The most important duty of a lifeguard is preventing rescues from even happening. A good day of lifeguarding is five rescues and 20 preventative actions.

However, a great day of lifeguarding is zero rescues and 100 preventatives!

There is a zero percent chance of a drowning when a life threatening situation is prevented from even happening.

For example, when a diligent lifeguard notices a young child about to enter a ocean with potentially dangerous waves, he will run and stop the child from even touching the water.

Even though it is "glamorous" for a lifeguard to have many rescues, it is in the best interest of both the public and the lifeguard to prevent the necessity for rescues. There is no worse feeling for a lifeguard to know that he/she could have done something to prevent a drowning.

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