Lifeguard Instructors Having Difficulty Complying With New California Law

We would agree that lifeguards all across the board need to be held to higher standards in this nation and the state of California is changing the game for lifeguard instructors and for lifeguards which has prompted some backlash. While we welcome the new changes in the law, others are worried the new California law is too burdensome.

Many lifeguards and lifeguard agencies are struggling with a new law that raising a lot of questions in regards to the role of lifeguards in public safety.

The new law, Title 22 now requires all public safety personnel including lifeguards to complete advanced first aid training that offers no less than 21 hours of instruction. This now goes way beyond current lifeguard curriculum offered by certifying agencies to better prepare lifeguards for prehospital emergencies that may occur on the job and they do. In fact, most lifeguard training is completed in anywhere from 24 to 30 hours and out of that the first aid portion may only be 2 to 4 hours at most. Most certifying agencies offer what is called “blended” learning which is half the course is done online at home and the other half done in person. There really is no quality control and we feel that all training should be done in the presence of an instructor.

Current lifeguard training includes basic first aid, CPR and AED. The new California law requires lifeguards to be trained in bleeding control, administration of oral glucose (diabetic emergencies) and how to render aid in drug/alcohol emergencies (Narcan), etc. There may be more changes to the list as determined by local EMS authorities (LEMSA).

The new law went into effect in April 2015 however there was a 2-year grace period for implementation of the new law (training requirements). Many aquatics programs are still attempting to become compliant since the deadline has passed. As of today, it seems that many have not complied with the new law or have out rightly dismissed it. We have been unable to locate a training facility that is in compliance with the new law.

The conflict is the change in the approval process to meet compliancy. It used to be that the state would approve the training curricula. Title 22 has changed all that by placing responsibilities on local EMS authorities (LEMSA). Many agencies were blindsided when local recreation departments requested that they approve their training plans.

Most aquatics programs are concerned by the cost to have training curricula approved at a cost of anywhere between $100 to $1,300.

With the new changes, many are worried that the lines are being blurred between lifeguards and EMT’s. It is said that many lifeguards are wondering where their responsibilities end and those of the EMT begin. Well, let’s get something straight! Lifeguards whether they realize or not are going to have to deal with medical emergencies in the course of their duties. This can’t be avoided so having properly trained lifeguards is crucial.

Some are crying foul and in fact the California Park and Recreation Society’s Section formed a task force of 12 lifeguarding professionals (we were never contacted) to research the potential ripple effect of the new law. They may seek to amend it by attempting to “dumb it down”.

What we find infuriating is that we have always been outspoken advocates of raising the bar on lifeguards yet there are those who say the additional training may be too demanding for younger lifeguards who simply want part time jobs at a pool doing the occasion water rescue. Our answer to that is simply to “man up”!

Many are asking what level of responsibility is appropriate for the 15- to 17-year old lifeguard? Our position is that just like EMT’s, the minimum age to become a lifeguard should be 18 years old. A 15-year-old lifeguard may not have the maturity to handle something like for example a full arrest. We have been notified in some cases where a young lifeguard simply freezes in the face of an emergency and bystanders must step in. This is unacceptable!


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