NOTE: If Supervisor or Head Lifeguard is the highest aquatic position at your facility, please also review the information contained on the “Aquatics Director” page There is critical training information outlined on it!

Patrons must not be allowed to assert any control over you or lifeguards while on duty, nor may they be allowed to interact with a guard while on duty.

The aquatic staff must be in charge of the pool at all times. There must be no exceptions to this rule.

  • It is critical that all patrons know the supervisor and lifeguards are in charge of the pool. PERIOD. NO EXCEPTIONS. A guard cannot be allowed to be intimidated or doubt herself. Seconds count, and a guard must never hesitate!
  • Adult patrons, regardless of status, must follow all pool rules and respect a guard’s enforcement of the rules when they or their children violate them.
  • If a patron questions a lifeguard’s decision, he should talk to the guard’s supervisor. During a discrepancy, the supervisor must be prepared to back up and support his guard. If the supervisor determines he needs to discuss the issue with the guard, he must do so in private. If the situation is critical, the supervisor will need to replace the guard immediately with a guard of equal or greater qualifications.

NOTE: If your facility has created a SwimSafe4Life Community Commitment Board, patrons will have what they need to address any issue.



Your lifeguards must anticipate and prevent injuries and emergencies through Drowning Risk & Recognition Training. CPR should NEVER be necessary due to drowning.

Guards must arrive prior to their shift for facility preparation.

If it is the first shift of the day, as supervisor, you should:

  • Ensure that all staff has access to drinking water
  • Check all lifeguard and emergency equipment
  • Confirm each guard is able to immediately access all necessary equipment
  • Check all lifeguard stations and lifeguard chairs to make sure they are in good shape, umbrellas open and in position, etc.
  • Clear paths for lifeguard use by making sure patron chairs or other items don’t create an obstacle course for the guards
  • Check all PFDs              

Team review:

  • Check that lifeguards are alert, rested, focused, and able to perform their duty.
  • Review the daily checklist  (see below).
  • Reiterate that the director made the schedule with patrons’ safety as the priority, assigning each guard to the station they are most qualified to cover. Any changes to the schedule must be approved by the director.

Shift review:

  • Review the supervisor/head lifeguards schedules— because they need breaks, at some facilities there may be more than one scheduled. At all times there should be a supervisor on active duty.
  • Check that scheduled guards, or previously approved replacement guards, have reported for duty.
  • Review rotation and break times*.
  • Go over individual guard schedules and assigned stations.
  • Talk about the specifics of the day’s schedule (camp, birthday party, etc.).

 Daily checklist review:

  • Prohibition of personal phones/devices while on duty.
  • Prohibition of engaging with patrons while on duty.
  • Signs and behaviors of a person in trouble in the water.
  • Your EAP.
  • CPR. Reiterate that the director made the schedule with the patrons’ safety as the priority, so there should be NO drowning-related CPR. However, CPR might be needed in a non-water-related accident, like a heart attack.
  • Pool rules and the importance of enforcing them consistently.
  • Whistle signals and the importance of daily practice.
  • Protocol to instantly communicate with team members and supervisor.
  • Protocol for changing guard stations while maintaining duty requirements.
  • Procedure for when a guard must enter the pool or leave his/her position.
  • Procedure for clearing the pool quickly and efficiently.
  • Insistence, at guard discretion, that a child wear a PFD or move to a toddler area.
  • Confirmation that an experienced, certified adult (not just 18-year-olds) lifeguard supervisor is on duty at the pool at all times.
  • Enforcement of the rule that no one should EVER work alone, regardless of age, experience or any other factor. PERIOD.

Weather is an important factor when determining the duration of rotations and breaks. Lifeguards working in hot, humid climates may need more frequent rotations. Remember, the director must approve any change because he/she created the schedule and knows the variables and the level of experience needed for each (e.g., an 11-year-old boy’s birthday party, the camp field trip with campers of all ages, etc.).

While the facility is open and patrons are present, the supervisor/head guard must be vigilant.

Support your guards by making sure:

  • Lifeguards are at their scheduled stations
  • Lifeguards have no intrusions—intervene if needed
  • Lifeguards have no distractions—intervene if needed
  • Lifeguards are consistently enforcing all rules with all patrons
  • Monitor and adjust for sudden, unexpected numbers of patrons.
  • Monitor and adjust for a sudden, unexpected increase or shift in concentration of high-risk populations.
  • During guard changes, there is not a moment when the lifeguard station’s zone is not being monitored:
    • The guard going on duty scans the zone while the guard going off duty moves out of position.
    • The guard going off duty scans the zone while the guard going on duty gets into position.
    • The guard on duty takes control of the station.

After a shift change:

  • Verify that each station is covered.
  • Check the schedule and verify that the correct guard is at his/her scheduled station—some facilities will have specific zones that demand an experienced guard.
  • Take note of positive actions and praise the guard during a staff meeting.
  • Take note of actions that need to be addressed with an individual guard, and discuss these with him/her during a break (e.g., unnecessary whistles, ignoring when a buddy breaks a rule, not enforcing rules with adults or children of specific patrons).


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