I know I need to do lots of training with my staff to keep the pool safe. But how much is enough? My budget is tight and my staff's availability is limited in winter. How much training do you do?

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Each week during the summer all guards are required to swim 500 yards and attend an in-service. During the "school year" we have shorter hours and a majority of the guards are in high school. We have various in-service opportunites and they must attend at least two a month. For those guards who are active in school sports and work very few hours (maybe once a week for 3 or 4 hours), with talking to me, the manager, and knowing their school schedules, some exceptions are allowed. This probably only works because we live in a small town (approximately 3000 people) and as the manager in the small town that I grew up in, I have strong relations with the school district, guard's parents etc which makes it much easier to really know your guard's school and other activities.
There is no such thing as enough in-service. That said, I understand your predicament and have had the same issue. In the "off-season" your staff is usually made up with people who have other things going on like school, second job, they may have kids, etc. We tried hard to get our staff together so we could conduct an in-service. Usually one or two people would show up. It was pointless and frustrating to plan an in-service and have a poor turnout.

It did not take long to realize, it was impossible to get everyone together. I looked over my staff's availability and it was clear that many of them were busy during the time we scheduled in-service. Ironically, some of them were actually working for me at the time. I couldn't close down the facilities they were at so they could attend.

So the next best thing we thought was to come up with quizzes. Our guards are required to take two quizzes a month. Clearly this will not make them better with skills but it will keep them sharp. Our quizzes test them on everything to CPR ratios to customer service and professionalism. Quizzes can cover a diverse range of topics and it is better than nothing.

One other idea is you can have them work on skills while they work. I do not know how your facility is set up but even if you have a one guard pool it would work. Let's say you have a shift change at 2pm everyday. One or two days a month have your afternoon guard come in early (an hour would be fine). Let them guard for your morning guard. You can take your morning guard and work on CPR with them. They can practice water skills with you-anything that does not require more than two people (spinal is out). Once you are done with your morning guard, they can go back and guard while you work with the afternoon guard. Repeat this until you have all/most of your staff done.

Hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck.
I agree with Bob, I frequently tell our Fire Chief that I wish I could afford his training schedule. We have a 2 hour inservice once a month. It is mandatory for all Lifeguards unless an absence is pre-arranged. They have to have a good reason to miss an inservice and they can only miss so many in a year. In addition to the regular inservices we also have a Summer pre-season orientation which has two 4 hour sessions and one 8 hour session, that is also mandatory for all new and returning staff. We will VAT our guards usually no less than once ever two weeks and no more than three times in a week. We also try to work one or two live drills into the mix to give both our Guards and the Fire Dept personnel some practice at working together. But our basic Inservice plan is built around the one 2 hour session every month. I make sure to hit backboarding twice a year, with a CPR re-up and Oxygen re-up at least once a year. We also make our staff mock further care (cpr etc.) whenever we do inservices that involve scenarios, so that it's not just in-water skills that get refreshed.
something we tested this year and will implement further in 2010 is using a (daily) 15 minute safety break for (ongoing) in service training. I was mostly concerned about guest complaints but we are able to do some of the practice in front of guests which when communicated correctly with signage and announcements turns into a positive with guests observing at a distance. we close our waterslides and still leave one person roaming. its documented and should count as in service hours.
I hope this helps and gives you a nugget that you can add to.
that is a great Idea we were thinking about doing something like that this summer..and Now I am glad I joined so I could read that it works and is seen as a positive in the patrons eyes. Thanks
I have training once a month in the winter months and about 2 times a month in the summer. We always have our once a month training/meeting. But in the summer it gets hard to have 100% attendance so if some people miss the training we have them do it while they are on a break from the stand to get briefed on the training and make sure they swim the 500yds or do the drills that we had everyone else do at training.
We have implemented a "post position" into our rotation. This would be done around shift change of the AM staff as they come down from their last rotation; we actually add a CPR/training position for the 20-30 minutes just as if you had to add another guard for coverage. Then as the PM staff come off their first rotation, they go through the "post" as well. This way you can get the AM and PM staffs within a 2 hour window depending on how big your facility is and how your rotations are set up. We have seen this 1 on 1 training to be very effective in our inhouse/external audits. As for training, we are in the waterpark business and we train a lot. Short answer, never enough training can prepare a 16 year old to do CPR when needed.

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