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of actions by Backyard Lifeguards

As defined by the American Red Cross, US Lifesaving Association, US Coast Guard, and other nationally recognized drowning prevention agencies, the following are various actions taken by lifeguards to ensure safety of patrons and water sites.  


During a lifeguard surveillance shift, a 30-second survey of the entire surface, mid-depth, and bottom of any body of water or zone of water for hazards or behaviors that could lead to injury or drowning, or that indicate to the lifeguard that injury or drowning is occurring.


A VERBAL ACTION taken to reduce or remove a potential hazard in or around the water during a surveillance shift.  Verbal warnings given to people who:

  • are in a position where, if they were to remain, their safety would be compromised; or 

  • are engaged in activity which, if they were to continue, their safety would be compromised

Other preventive acts include but are not limited to:

  • removal of physical hazards from a water site

  • orientation to water safety, swim rules, policies, and prohibited activities

  • skill evaluations to determine swimming competency 

  • life vest issuance, including proper sizing and fitting of a vest

  • peducation that provides explanation and context to a rule, regulation, or warning given


PHYSICAL CONTACT made by a lifeguard with a person concerning a violation of a law, rule, or regulations that has already been committed.  Such acts may include, but are not limited to:

  • blocking entrance by persons to an area or activity deemed to be dangerous

  • tapping to get the attention of a person who is unable to hear verbal instructions

  • removal or ejection of a person from a water site for continuous rule violation

  • summons of higher authority such as site/event management or police 


Incident in which a person (adult or child) is separated from their family, group, or companions and is assisted by a lifeguard in finding the lost person/s via a land or water search.

  • Land: An incident where the missing person was last seen on land

  • Water: An incident where the missing person was last seen in the water


PHYSICAL CONTACT made by a lifeguard with a person not in immediate danger, but who is unable, under their own power, to reach a point of safety, temporary rest or refuge, or their intended destination, and which does not result in the person’s departure or removal from the water or water site.


PHYSICAL CONTACT made with rescue equipment or by a lifeguard to a person displaying the drowning process or otherwise judged to be in imminent danger.  The action interrupts or stops the drowning process and results in the person’s departure or removal from the water or water site to reach a point of safety or to be provided advanced care.  A Critical Rescue is one that requires additional resources, assistance, and action (extrication, medical treatment, etc.) to interrupt or stop the drowning process and provide subsequent care.


MEDICAL TREATMENT performed by a lifeguard that is serious enough to warrant a written report of some kind.  Does include not routine acts such as distributing band-aids.

  • Minor: Medical treatment that does not require care beyond what the lifeguard provides and results in the person being treated and released

  • Major: Medical treatment that requires additional resources, assistance, action, or further attention from additional lifeguards, advanced medical personnel such as EMS, or transport to a medical treatment facility


A respiratory impairment from submersion / immersion in water that warrants a rescue to interrupt the drowning process, or, if not interrupted, results in injury or death.

A non-drowning death in the water or in the area of the water site is recorded as "other fatality".

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