Their jobs are incredibly stressful and crucial in our society
By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor
Warmer and sunnier days are finally here, and with them come long days spent on beaches, pools, and participating in water-related activities. Unfortunately, these days also bring with them a higher risk of drowning. According to a report by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada, the majority of drowning deaths occur in the warmest months of May to September. With this in mind, I think now is as crucial a time as ever to be mindful of our water safety and acknowledge the people whose job it is to prevent these drownings every day: Lifeguards.
As someone who has done lifeguard training in the past, I know the statistics of drowning all too well. In Canada, almost 500 people a year die by drowning, which is a pretty scary number. However, only about one percent of these drowning cases happen in lifeguard-supervised areas. It’s hard to imagine life without lifeguards and I’m sure it’s not at all easy to look out for the safety and deal with the injuries of hundreds or even thousands of people every day. Lifeguards may not be as highly regarded as paramedics, police officers, or firefighters, but I think they ought to be appreciated just the same.
It may seem obvious that people who prevent drownings should be recognized, however, I know there are some people who don’t see the value that lifeguards have. During my training last year people would often see a group of us practicing spinal rollovers or CPR and scoff, “Lifeguards don’t actually do anything,” or, “They just get paid to stand around.” With all of the CPR, first aid, and rescue training, certification, and expertise that is needed to become a lifeguard, I don’t think that’s a fair assumption to make. Not only that, it’s also an incredibly stressful job to have. Lifeguards work hard and ensure the safety of many lives, so they deserve the same respect that any first responder does.
If you don’t believe me, I recommend watching a show called Bondi Rescue, a reality television show that documents the daily tasks of the lifeguards at Bondi Beach in Australia. Watching them perform CPR on unconscious victims, look for lost children, deal with first aid cases, and rescue people from potentially drowning is inspiring and makes you realize just how hard being a lifeguard really is.
I know sometimes they can seem strict or rude with all their rules, but that’s only because they want to minimize the possibility of needing to perform rescues or even handle injuries or resuscitations. Prevention of accidents is one major step in lifesaving because it means you’re reducing the chances of a water-related injury or death from occurring. The rules they have set up are designed to decrease risk and to protect you. The next time they tell you not to run on the pool deck or get upset when you dive into the shallow end, you should listen. They’re not doing it because they want to power-trip over you or to repeat the same rules to people again and again, they just don’t want to have to worry about someone getting an injury or—worst case scenario—dying on their watch. Listen to the lifeguard and follow pool rules because they’re in place for a good reason.
It’s also important to note that lifeguards won’t always be there to save us, and the best way to prevent drowning is to learn how to swim and educate ourselves about water safety. Indeed, another way to show appreciation to lifeguards is by taking precautions when swimming in a non-supervised area or by wearing a life jacket and keeping yourself informed about any potential dangers.
Having the lives of multiple people depend on you constantly can’t be easy, which is why lifeguards need to be more respected. They have incredibly high-pressure but vital jobs—so the least you can do is follow their rules.