I was wondering what other public agency policies are on lifejackets being worn during your recreational swimming hours. Do you allow this? If so, how do you monitor this practice? If you do or don't allow lifejackets what is your rationale for your policy?

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At our facility life jackets are allowed but we do not provide them. So they can bring in their own US Coast Guard approved jackets. The lifejackets do not replace our supervision policy though.

Any non-swimmer under 54" tall must stay within arms reach of a responsible 14 year old or older. If they get separated from the supervisor we give them one chance to stay with the kids again and then we tell them they have sit out. Our test for a swimmer is to swim 25 yards with a mostly horizontal body position (lifeguard discretion, but I have gotten my guards as all being pretty close in their standards).
California has a law requiring the availability of lifejackets at waterparks. E&A client facilities also must provide lifejackets. Tom Griffiths of Aquatic Safety Research Group (www.aquaticsafetygroup.com) advocates a free Note & Float campaign, which would suggest we float all nonswimmers. Info is available on his website. Many YMCAs, particularly those insured by Redwoods Group, also require that nonswimmers be identified and offered a USCG-approved lifejacket. If we're concerned about minimizing the risk of death by drowning, we would make lifejackets available or allow their use. While not impossible to drown with a lifejacket on, it is much more difficult to do so. Sure kids may float out to the middle of the pool and guards might have to in and get them, but at least the guards would be going in to get a living person than recovering a body from the bottom.
Excellent. I hadn't heard of the note and float program. It basically coincides with what we do at our facility, which is to have anywhere from 20-30 Super Soft brand lifejackets ranging from XS child to M adult available for guests to use at their leisure. Lifeguards are responsible for making sure that patrons are using the correct size. During recreational family type swims, where we open up the entire pool, we will typically run patrons who wish to use the deeper portion of the pool through a simple swim check. If you pass, you don't need a vest; if you don't, we will provide you with the correctly-sized jacket to wear. Pamphlets or brochures discussing water safety and lifejackets would be a good idea, in addition.
Our facility only allows USCG approved lifejackets or children's flotation suits where the flotation device is built in to the suit. We do not allow any other floaties at all. Lifejackets are available for rental or you can bring your own, though our Lifeguards and Managers have the authority to decide if a patron's personal lifejacket is unsafe due to size or physical state. Lifejackets do not override our supervision policy which is that children under 6 must be accompanied in the water with someone at least 15 or older.
My facility is an Ellis and Associates Facility therefore, we are required to provide them for free to any customer who is not efficient in their swimming capabilities. I have mixed feelings on the topic, but in the end...... I do not see where it is not safe if they are wearing them correctly.
We allow Coast Guard approved Type I,II, or III. The must also fit properly. We do not provide. All other regulations, policies, procedures, protocols related to non-swimmers and their supervision are still enforced.
USCG lifejackets are always allowed, but I do not provide them at any of my facilities. As Joe Andrews and others have already stated, a lifejacket is not a substitute for "direct supervision of a non-swimmer by a parent of guardian." I like the idea of being within one arm's length to qualify as supervising.

I do not put an LG on a baby pool (standard 18 foot round pool in most Texas facilites, maximum of 18 inches deep). It is usually monitored by the LG that is on "walkabout duty." If a parent is observed not directly supervising their child in the baby pool, they are given only one chance of lack of supervision...then they are asked to leave the facility. Usually, not a problem with the Moms watching each other. They will report any "lazy Moms".....LOL

In some counties in Texas, such as Montgomery, the minimum age for a "supervising adult" is specified in the County Health Regulations as 17 years old for any non-swimmer under 14 years of age. That minimizes if not eliminates the "family drop ofF plan" of non-swimmers with an older brother, sister, or their friends at the pools in that country. It is the most restrictive regulation I deal with at my pools in the area.

I also use a minimum swim test for all swimmers 14 years and younger. The swim test consists of swimming the length of the pool or across the widest span of the pool into deep water (using any stroke). The part of the test is treading water (usually in the deep end) for 60 seconds. I use this swim test to determine if the child can be at the pool unaccompanied. The swim test is given and recorded by any LG (lifeguard) not on pool duty (usually during Adult Swims every hour when crowdedor at the beginning of the day). I have a special neon-pink colored sheet with all the children's names, ages, and home or parents phone numbers, who have passed the swim test. The Swim Test Sheet is kept at the front office at each pool for record keeping and retesting is required every year.

The lowest minimum age of unaccompanied swimmers is set at each pool with the owners, managment or board of directors by contract, usually about 10 years old to as low as 8 years old. Reasoning is my LGs can usually handle a 3rd grader who can swim and has enough school experience to listen to an authority figure! Of course this Swim Test program does NOT apply in counties such as Montgomery, Texas.
As Greg Narramore said "We allow Coast Guard approved Type I, II, or III. They must also fit properly. ... All other regulations, policies, procedures, protocols related to non-swimmers and their supervision are still enforced." We also allow pfd's in our open swim sessions, but that doesn't change the requirement of supervision of youth by a responsible adult. To put it simply, I would rather have a guard rescue someone on the surface.
I want to echo what Brian stated: Lifeguards shall educate and enforce the "RPPP - Regulations, policies, procedures and protocols". Supervision is the responsible adult tagged to the non-swimmer or young person who does not meet your critiera for being un-supervised with out an adult presence.

Lifeguards respond to emergencies and enforce and follow the RPPP. They are not direct supervisors or as some think babysitters.
What are your views on letting kids with lifejackets/floaties go off the diving board?
Simply, if a child is in the water (main pool) wearing a lifejacket or floaties...I will look for the adult supervising that child. If there is not one, then my LGs are instructed to direct and/or remove the child from the water. The back-up LG will then take the child and find the adult responsible and then reexplai the "Rule". If the adult wants their child to jump off the side of the deep end or diving board, I have no objections if the adult is there supervising. (I do this with my Beginnier Swimmers on Day 5/of 10.) I do have my LGs caution adults about the real possibility that the floaties will come off their child's arms when they jump from the board. This policy may seem cumbersome, but it works (and has worked for over 40 years as a lifeguard)!!!! The children, as well as the adults, understand it and follow it. It is not uncommon for a young swimmer in the main pool (usually one of my "Junior LGs" in the ARC Guard Start program) to lead a lifejacketed brother or sister or one of their siblings friends back to the baby pool and then scold them and their mother about the "Rules"...(that is priceless..and believe it or not, the adult responsible responds very well to the "junior LG.") The parent's response is VERY positive and immediate.
Per our written policy on lifejacket usage, only USCG approved lifjackets types I, II, III, and V are permitted. No other PFD's are allowed. If a patron utilizes a USCG lifejacket, an adult (13 years or older) must remain within arms reach at all times. If a patron with a lifejacket is found without an adult within arms reach, the closest lifeguard signals to a fellow lifeguard on the zone to cover their the zone and will remove the child from the water and locate the adult with whom the patron arrived with (a manager can and will also be called to respond). Persons wearing lifejackets are not permitted to utilitize diving boards, slides, basketball goal, lily pad or any other play feature within the facility that requires a user to be able to recover on their own. All lifejackets are checked by the lifeguard or management staff for the USCG approved label and are taged with a vinyl band (this band is imprinted with the name and logo of the facility). This band may remain on for the duration of the season so that we maintain positive customer service; however if this band is removed, staff will check the lifejacket and band it again. We allow lifejackets during open swim and any other time the facility is open such as pool rentals; however, we do not utilize lifejackets in our swim lesson progams, but this is due to our philosophy on that program not due to policy. Under our policy, we do not target any group of persons, but open it up to include anyone who needs or wants to wear a lifejacket (a 4 year old may not need it but a 20 year old might- we do not require that persons under a certain height wear a lifejacket).

We do provide USCG lifejackets at no cost at the facility; patrons simply check-out the lifejacket from front desk staff. These lifejackets, too, are tagged.

This sytem has worked very well for our facility and the general public has caught on quickly to this rule and the expectations associated with it. The only negative response we have received is from the "sideline" parents who send their young ones into the pool with a lifejacket and then are upset when we say they must remain in the pool with the child. This, however, is the exception to the norm.


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