I would like to know how many lifeguards you require to open up your facility if you have more than one pool?

We have an eight lane lap pool, a six lane shallow ( 4ft.) swim and excercise class pool and a diving pool. We require two lifeguards to open one pool and at least three for all three pools to open. We have an exercise class that uses the six lane pool and we have allowed use of the pool with one lifeguard and an instructor ( certified lifeguard) who sometimes is in the pool with the mataure ladies. I would like to know if you feel it is safe to allow the instrutor to enter the water with the class and if it is safe for one or more patrons  to swim laps in the eight lane pool when the instructor may be in the water with the class? This means one lifeguard would have to watch both pools while the instructor is in the pool or teaching the class from the deck.


Also, we allow a high school team to train in our facility and use three pools. The coach is a certified lifeguard so we have allowed him to be one of the threelifeguards required for use of three pools. Do you think this is a safe situation?


I would appreciate your responce.


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We base the number of guards that we need on the number of people that we know are coming to the pool or how many are already there. We stick to a 1 to 25 ratio. Most of my water instructors do teaching from inside the pool but I always have a guard on deck. Now I would have one guard for each pool until your busy time starts.

Hope this helps and makes sense :)

Thanks Jennifer,

I appreciate you taking the time to answer my request. Your responce does make sense and helps me in developing a sound policy that I can defend.


We have 2 indoor pools, an 8 lane lap pool and a zero depth play/therapy pool.  We always staff at least one guard per pool regardless of bather load etc.  I would be hesitant to allow an Instructor that was in the water to count towards surveillance coverage because their focus is on the class and their vantage point doesn't allow them a clear view of their entire zone.  The only exception to this is would be an LGI teaching a lifguarding class during a time that the pool is not open to the public. 

Thanks Nick,

Your answer is what I would expect to take place for adequate coverage.


I would check with your legal counsel about allowing the swim coach, who is not an employee, serve as a required lifeguard.  Are you responsible for their rescue skills, first aid competency and physical conditioning?  Do they attend in-services as you hopefully require for your employees?  Will your insurance carrier or risk manager allow you to use a non-employee for required staffing?  Can a distracted swim coach guard a whole pool without help, when you evaluate that situation against the 10/20 rule?


Basically who is responsible if one of the team members is hurt, drowns, dies because of breath holding or even long QT problems, in your pool under the coach's supervision?  I know most teams carry insurance, but that won't cover you when you and your employer are asked if you provided the lifeguards required by your state's public swimming pool code to meet your license obligations.


Until you can answer these questions, I would be worried about something happening.


I know this doesn't answer all of your question, but I see to many swim team drownings and coach inattention to let that pass.


Thanks!  I'll give back the soapbox.

We keep a minimum of three staff on for opening shifts.  One for our leisure pool, one for our lap pool and one for rotations.  Our lap pool has 10 lap lanes open for rec swimming during most of these times.  If different groups come in to use the facility, we need to add more staff for the extra lanes we'll have open.  

I would be wary of having anyone but the lifeguards in the stand count towards your coverage. You should probably check your state code.  I'm in Ohio and our code states "lifeguards on duty at a public swimming pool shall not be engaged in swimmer instruction or coaching while on duty."  I was previously in Pennsylvania and there was a similar code there.

As Stephen stated below, check with your legal and risk management teams! I wouldn't count on coaches as a vital part of your emergency action plan, though I think most facilities can do a better job of incorporating them in it for an appropriate role. It is a mixed bag with the Instructor who is also a lifeguard, in a small facility where there is only one or two easily observable pools I would say sure to the instructor being guard #2 for short periods of time. Check with your local codes and what is allowed and what your risk management and legal council say.

It sounds like you have a bit of water (surface area and bottom of pool) for your guards to watch. I'd have at least 2 dedicated guards just to watching and if the numbers and/or facility design call for it, 3+. It is very hard to say authoritatively what the magic number is.  You do have to maintain a reasonably expected level of protection. It is a difficult line to walk where 99.999% of the time you will be just fine with one person shorter than ideal due to facility design and demands, which allows you to keep your facility open and economical. When that 0.001% occurs though it could be disaster for your facility.

Good luck with it all.


I think its obvious that a non-employee of the pool should not be included in the ratio of guards to pools.  What I would recommend is temporary closure of one of the pools for a period of about two weeks.  This will give the instructors and coaches an opportunity to evaluate the importance of the loss.

Either they'll realize they don't really NEED the extra pool or they'll realize that they're going to have to pay more $$$ to keep the extra pool open.  This puts the onus on them and shields you from both criticism and risk.  If they don't want to pay for the extra guard, they don't need the extra pool, and problem solved!

Bad things happen when lifeguards have other duties: coaching, teaching, cleaning.


No, I do not think it is safe.  All it takes is one medical emergency in any of the pools and there is not enough staff to take care of it.  Even though the swim team practicing is all swimmers, a medical emergency can occur that has nothing to do with their swimming ability.  Every area needs to be covered when being used.  You are leaving your facility open for a law suit

Or they do not need you to work for them - I have had that situation (Replying to Reciprocity on April 18, 2012). 

This is a very difficult problem -- I've been working on it for a while here at my pool.  Non employee is a simple NO for any part of the facility (id checker or IM Ref). 

I have 3 - 25 yard pools and at the 4-7pm shift we have swim team, lap swim, swim lessons, kayak rolling, aqua aerobics and a couple of guys wanting to play kill the man with the ball while shooting at a basket.

I also had a situation where a Div I swimmer blacked out during a team workout.

Keep the discussion going.


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