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Lifeguards keeping Andrews swimmers safe
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Justin Miller, lifeguard at the Gateway Pool on Joint Base Andrews, demonstrates how to perform a stride rescue jump into the water to save a victim, June 8, 2010. The stride jump is used to enter the water while keeping an eye on the victim at all times. Mr. Miller has worked at the Gateway Pool for three summers and is a resident of Joint Base Andrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katie Spencer)
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Guarding lives one splash at a time

Posted 6/11/2010   Updated 6/11/2010 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Katie Spencer
316th Wing Public Affairs

6/11/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- The sun is shining and the smell of sunscreen fills the air. Bathing suits and flip-flops have been taken out of storage and there is no sight of homework for at least two months.

Challenges of who can make a bigger splash in the pool are made and the popular, "cannonball!" scream is heard throughout the pool deck.

For some, this is the sweet vision of summertime, but for the lifeguard staff at the Gateway Pool on Joint Base Andrews, this is just another day at work.

Before a lifeguard can begin to save lives and assume duty, they must go through a lifeguard certification course which consists of basic life saving techniques, first-aid and CPR for the professional rescuer.

"Our guards are trained on how to handle anything from spinal injuries all the way to a scratch on the knee," said Lexi Rizzo, aquatics director for the Gateway Pool. "You never know when you will need to utilize your skills, so you prepare for the worst."

The lifeguards at the Gateway Pool attend a weekly in-service training class to stay sharp on their life saving skills. During this training, they practice different types of scenarios and how to react in an emergency as well as building a strong foundation for teamwork.

The knowledge of how to save lives in the pool goes hand in hand with being physically capable to perform rescues.

Each lifeguard must be able to swim a distance of 300 meters and tread water with a 10 pound brick. In addition, they are encouraged to stay in shape outside of what is required.

"Someone who is actively drowning is the most dangerous type of victim because they are not in control of themselves," said Thomas Busch, lifeguard at the Gateway Pool. "By staying in shape and being physically fit, you have more strength to subdue the victim saving their life and keeping you safe."

Lifeguards are responsible for much more than saving lives.

Pool maintenance is a very important responsibility a lifeguard takes on. The cleanliness of the facility is what keeps the patrons interested in coming back to enjoy their fun in the sun. The trash is taken out regularly, the bathrooms are mopped and kept in serviceable condition, the lawn chairs are arranged in a certain order and chemical levels are constantly being monitored.

Aside from pool maintenance, the lifeguards are also responsible to teaching swim lessons.

Five of the 12 staff members at the Gateway Pool are water safety instructors. This is a different certification which permits those certified to teach people how to swim. At the Gateway Pool, the lifeguards work during the day doing their regular job and then teach swim lessons at the end of the day.

Guarding lives along with other responsibilities can be stressful.

"The more people in the pool the more our attention level increases," said Ms. Rizzo. "Add the sound of kids screaming, music and aircraft noise to the situation and it gets stressful. We cannot let the environment interfere with our core responsibility; patron safety."

Along with the stress of the job, being a lifeguard can also have its benefits.

"Being a lifeguard has opened my eyes to a possible career in the medical field, "said Karen Fang, lifeguard at the Gateway Pool. "It's exciting to help people and I think I found my niche. Right now, I am a volunteer EMT and hope to soon get into the nursing field."
Lifeguards are more than just the people who sit on a stand and work on their tan. They are highly trained individuals who take preventative measures to ensure patron safety.

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