Lifeguards by the numbers
This summer, we received a lot of questions at the Community Center and SandVenture Aquatic Park about the number of lifeguards needed for open swim and the availability of our water features: slides, diving board, rock climbing wall and water playset. The availabilities depend on how many staff are on each shift and here is why.
Our aquatics staff is committed to ensure the safety of all patrons who use our facilities. We staff both pools, SandVenture and the indoor Community Center pool, following the Minnesota Department of Health pool code and American Red Cross' lifeguarding best practices. Our lifeguards stand, walk or sit in an elevated chair to provide them with clear unobstructed surveillance of the pool and patrons at a given moment.
SandVenture is a large pool - about the area of 18 tennis courts. The sand bottom presents another challenge, since we are not able to see the bottom of the pool. To accommodate this, we have six to eight lifeguards with overlapping zones of coverage to ensure maximum patron surveillance. Lifeguard stations allow all water to be watched by two guards at all times. This also creates a distance where a lifeguard will be able to reach a patron in less than a minute for quick assistance in an emergency. On days we are short staffed, this is why the left half of the pool will be closed and all guards move to the right side and deep end. We do this to keep deep end features open, as well as have adequate coverage of the swimming portion of the pool.
At the Community Center pool, our lifeguards are primarily high schoolers, so open swim is in the evenings and more features are turned on when they can work after school. During open swim, we need at least two lifeguards to have our play features on because one lifeguard can only see half the feature, causing blind spots on the other side of the pool. Four lifeguards are necessary to have the green slide on. According to Minnesota state code, a flume waterslide must have an individual at the top controlling its use and a lifeguard at the bottom where guests exit.
To open the rock climbing wall, seven lifeguards are needed. Following safety guidelines, the climbing wall requires a designated lifeguard since guests climb as high as they can and jump into the pool. With individuals jumping from 10-20 feet, this can present a risk of injury, so a nearby lifeguard is needed should an injury occur and to regulate its use, e.g., one climber at a time and keeping others out of the "drop zone." The rock wall is opened after the water features, slide and open swim area are properly staffed.
Our pools require lifeguards stationed to supervise all areas, avoiding blind spots created by the shape of the pool and water features. Having staff stationed as they are around the pool deck or beach provides optimum coverage of the whole facility and ensures patron safety and quick response time to potential emergencies.