Our outdoor facility operates on 30 minute rotations, with three or four "active" positions one "passive" position (the bottom or top of the waterslides) followed by a break. We let our indoor guards decide whether they want to do 20 or 30 minute rotations when we're in a "one down" mode. If we have "all up" they remain at their stand for 30-50 minutes before a manager comes and breaks them. We encourage our guards to self-rotate between pools if they feel they are starting to zone out. We also do a position switch and blind-spot check every 10-12 minutes on all of our pools indoor and outdoor.
I agree with shorter rotations, as many of you said, because the lifeguards need to stay focused and not become comfortable. I have a system where if we have three lifeguards on duty, 2 are up and one is down and they rotate every 20 minutes. The down guard cleans and assists on the deck when necessary. If we have 4 guards on duty, 3 are up and 1 is down. I don't have more than 1 guard down at any given time to keep them focused on their responsibilities and so they don't distract eachother from their duties. I also randomly test them whether it's a scenario where they have to make a mock rescue or simply a quiz on CPR, etc. This keeps them on their toes.
For those that use the "5 Minute Strategy", I recommend using the Griffs Guard Station. These lifeguard stands are made specifically for the 5 minute strategy. They have large opens front steps and an additional step up area for elevated surveillance. These work great for our 1200 patron a day swimming pool. With 6 Guard stations and a 20 minute rotation, you have to have a stand that will work with you, and not against you. http://www.aquaticsafetygroup.com/guardstation.html
FYI these are made by the great Tom Griffiths.
I've done the 5 Minute Strategy on a 2 foot square platform before. I'll admit that physically moving your location is a part of the strategy, but moving to a little platform two feet to the side is not in the spirit of the strategy, nor will it do much more good than just standing up where you are. Griff's station is expensive, takes up a lot of space, and plants the lifeguard far back from the gutter. Spray painting footprints on a platform doesn't revolutionize a lifeguard chair...
My lifeguards are in the chair for 15 minutes and we have five stations. Then they are down for 15 minutes if the day is busy. They need to realize that they are at work and most places do not get a 30 min. break through out the day except lunch. How many times are they on break? I get complaining too but they need to be thankful for the time down!
I would be careful about too frequent rotations. It is important for the lifeguard to invest in his/her zone to truly be in control. It is very tempting for a guard to "look the other way" instead of dealing with a situation if they know it will be someone else's problem real soon. Research shows that you start loosing attentiveness in 5 min, which is the basis of Griffith's 5 Min Scanning Method. Used properly and with consistent management intervention guards should not have to move to another station every 15, 20, or even 30 minutes. Breaking their day up with a rotation of some other responsibility, so that it is not guard rotation after guard rotation, is a good idea too. There are a lot of good suggestions in the coorespondence, but don't assume that rotating stations results in better vigilance. Keep management (head guard, team leader etc) involved in observing the guards at all times.
I agree with Leisl. The 5 Minute Scanning Strategy is a good one to watch and get some ideas from. Also there is a couple articles out there on "vigilant guarding" that are good to post up around your facility to help the guards understand a more in depth view on how important their job is. I've been through a number of different types of facilities (ARC, Ellis, Canadian red Cross) for guarding situations. The one I'm currently at (ARC lifeguarding) requires that the guards rotate every 15 minutes. And our guards do go through swings of boredom, and I find that no matter where you are it is a mind numbing task to lifeguard, and it is a challenge to continue to look at the pool in a different way to keep yourself observant and safe. When I approach this type of understanding with the lifeguards it seems to help them know that I value what they are doing and understand that it is difficult but they also know that they are incredibly important this way. Also going out and doing a "vigilant guarding" session with them for about a half hour each quarter really helps keep them more focused.
We have a large facility (9 chairs + 2 slide attendants) that traditionally has been on 30 minute rotations. You would have 2 or 3 chairs followed by a break. Now we are trying 20 minute rotations and it seems like the staff is against it. I think a lot of it is just veteran staff refusing to change. The only valid argument I've heard from staff is that in the time it takes to rotate three chairs and return to the lounge, your break is halfway over. We've tried doing three chairs up (60 min) and two breaks in a row (40 min, minus the time it takes to rotate) but this seems like a waste of staff to me. I personally feel that 20 minute rotations, combined with the 5 minute strategy, keeps our guards on their toes and makes the shift fly by. If anyone wanted to share any thoughts on this situation, I would greatly appreciate it.