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Active Supervision: How Lifeguards and Water Watchers Work Together

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children aged 1-4, but it is preventable. While lifeguards play a crucial role in maintaining safety at pools and beaches, another layer of vigilance can significantly enhance water safety: Water Watchers. Water Watchers and Lifeguards providing active supervision can help make a difference and help keep everyone safer.

The Role of Lifeguards 

Lifeguards are professionally trained to actively supervise swimmers, prevent accidents, identify distress signs, and perform rescues and first aid when necessary. Their presence is reassuring and essential at pools, water parks, and beaches. Lifeguards undergo rigorous training in water rescue techniques, CPR, and emergency response procedures. This makes them well-equipped to handle various situations that may arise in aquatic environments.

However, lifeguards have numerous challenges and aren’t perfect. They are responsible for monitoring many swimmers simultaneously, and distractions can happen. Factors such as glare from the water, blind spots in large pools, or the sheer number of people can hinder even the most vigilant lifeguard.

The Need for Water Watchers

This is where Water Watchers come in. What is a Water Watcher? The National Drowning Prevention Alliance defines a Water Watcher as a responsible adult who can provide close, constant, and capable supervision of children in or around water without engaging in other activities or distractions (such as social media or texting). Designated Water Watchers should rotate every 15 minutes to keep their attention fresh. 

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance shares that one of the 5-Layers of Protection is Supervision. This active supervision is what a Water Watcher does. A Water Watcher should be designated every time you and your family go to a body of water. The Water Watcher should be easily identifiable too. You can even find a Water Watcher badge to print from NDPA! 

Working Together on Active Supervision

Swimming near a lifeguard is always recommended. Caregivers and parents should always maintain active supervision, even when a lifeguard is on duty. Lifeguards can help Water Watchers by providing them with updated pool rules and can even point out areas that can be harder to monitor. We are all working together to keep children safer while enjoying the water. 

While lifeguards receive routine training, you can also receive training to help in an emergency. Another layer of protection is emergency preparation. It is important to keep a phone charged and know the physical address of the area you are in. Learning and practicing CPR with rescue breaths is also important. Proper training and certification should be refreshed every 1-2 years or more frequently if there have been recent changes in recommendations.

Implementing a Successful Water Watcher System 

Successful implementation of a Water Watcher system involves several key components: 

  • Clear Identification: Water Watchers should wear a designated badge or vest that clearly identifies them as the current watcher. This helps both lifeguards and swimmers know who to communicate with about safety concerns.
  • Rotating Shifts: Shifts should be short enough to ensure attentiveness but long enough to maintain continuity in monitoring. A typical shift of about 15 minutes is advisable.
  • Regular Training: Water Watchers should have periodic refreshers on pool safety and emergency procedures to keep their knowledge up-to-date.

A water watcher is a must any time your family is recreating around water. However, the partnership between lifeguards and Water Watchers creates a more robust active supervision and safety network. This is critical for helping to prevent drownings. By working together, they ensure that every swimmer is watched with care and expertise, significantly reducing the risk of water-related accidents. Let’s keep our waters safe and enjoyable by supporting the vigilant collaboration of lifeguards and Water Watchers.