The American Red Cross reports that the Life Saving Corps was pioneered in 1914 by Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow in order to reduce the number of drowning deaths. This program is designed to ensure that lifeguards have adequate training to save a potential drowning victim. The Johnson County Environmental Department defines a lifeguard as a person who is trained and certified in both water safety and life saving in a course equivalent to the course offered by the American Red Cross. In other words, in order to be certified, you must be able to complete both the physical and mental requirements set forth by the Red Cross and related training programs.
A lifeguard is one of few occupations that does not require candidates to be 18 years of age. The minimum age to be certified as a lifeguard, after successfully completing all required elements of training, is 15 years old. The American Red Cross also offers a beginner program to 11- and 14-year-olds. This course helps to build a base knowledge to prepare these individuals to take the full-fledged lifeguarding course and become a certified lifeguard once they reach the age of 15 (The American National Red Cross, 2009). This requirement is in place in order to ensure that lifeguards are old enough to handle the responsibility of saving lives.
In order to successfully complete a training course and become a certified lifeguard, you must be in relatively good physical condition. An individual with breathing problems or other similar medical ailments that tend to arise during physical exertion may not be the ideal candidate for training to become a lifeguard. Additionally, an individual who is not able to lift, pull or drag a certain amount of weight due to a medical issue may not be an ideal candidate either (American Lifeguard Association, 2004). This is required to protect both the safety of the lifeguard and of potential drowning victims. A lifeguard who is himself not physically fit will be a danger to others.
Becoming a lifeguard requires an interested candidate to have some degree of swimming ability. Individuals interested in becoming a lifeguard are also required to not have a fear of water. The degree of swimming ability greatly depends on the type of lifeguard certification students are interested in. For instance, a lifeguard trained in deep water rescue will need to show a good deal more swimming ability and physical strength requirements than the individual interested in certification in shallow water rescue only (American Lifeguard Association, 2004). This training requirement is designed to ensure that a lifeguard can cope with water conditions and is a strong enough swimmer to save victims in the environment the lifeguard is protecting.
In addition to swimming ability, an individual training to become a certified lifeguard must also prove she has the ability to further save victims through the administration of certain lifesaving procedures and first aid. The procedures taught to all types of certified lifeguards are CPR, or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and how to correctly read and use an AED, or automated external defibrillator. In addition, certified lifeguard instruction courses also teach students how to initially assess the condition of a victim so that the proper, optimal lifesaving procedure can be administered at the time to save a life (American Lifeguard Association, 2004). This training requirement is essential to ensure that a drowning victim has the best chance of survival after being rescued from the water.
The American Red Cross offers four levels of classes for certification. Certification as a lifeguard is most often determined not only by the type of lifeguard one wants to become, but more so by their display of swimming ability. The four courses currently offered by the American Red Cross are: Lifeguarding, Waterfront Lifeguarding, Waterpark Lifeguarding, and Shallow Water Attendant. Shallow water attendant requires less intensive swimming ability than standard lifeguarding certification. The different levels of certification are designed to ensure that only the most qualified lifeguards are put into potentially dangerous situations. (The American National Red Cross, 2009).