American Lifeguard Association – In The Spotlight

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The American Lifeguard Association (ALA) has one mission and that is to improve the quality and accessibility of Health & Safety programs.

The ALA helps to administer health and safety programs at aquatic centres like swimming pools, waterparks and beaches. They also, with their expertise, help with the development of testing protocols, to ensure standards are set in place.

There is more to water safety than just watching people swim and saving them from drowning.

Environmental issues are also at the forefront of their concerns. ALA educates and emphasizes the public’s awareness that they are responsible for protecting the world we live in. Beaches, waterparks and public pools are very popular destinations, especially in the summer.

But we’ve all seen those horrible photos of trash left behind in the sand – utter irresponsibility on the citizens’ part!

ALA recognizes that aquatic sport will inevitably have an impact on the environment. It has worked diligently to keep the beaches and waterways cleaner.

They have also worked with Think Blue Too (as in, in addition to thinking green – about the environment). This movement has caused considerable positive impact on numerous aquatic environments.

As you may guess, ALA is responsible for providing a lot of training. They adhere to a strict code of ethics that enables them to deliver the highest quality health and safety training.

Part of this job involves ensuring the content and guidelines presented adhere to national standards so that everyone is trained the same way and can respond to crises in a number of instances.

The purpose of their training program is to teach future lifeguards how to respond to aquatic emergencies. Not only this, but they also are taught to prevent them, giving them the knowledge and skills needed.

ALA was founded in 1990. Over the last 28 years, they have offered lifeguard training and served the United States as a national educational association in the name of aquatic preparation and safety.

Their training includes such necessities as the basics of water safety, pool operations and lifeguard training. They also teach CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

ALA is highly regarded, having been featured on NBC’s The Today Show, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Fox News and more, providing information such as how to ensure a child is confident and comfortable in the water.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is a separate association responsible for national public health. This official federal agency is in charge of protecting the public by controlling and preventing disease in places like environmental health, occupational health and safety.

CDC has also recommended the training services of the American Lifeguard Association. Who better to call than the experts?

Since its beginnings in 1990, ALA has trained over 250 000 lifeguards.

Not only can you train with them, they also employ instructors, of course! If your passion is teaching and promoting safety awareness, then you may want to contact them and see about their on-site training, which is offered across the country.

They are creating a network of instructors across the nation who will teach safety related courses like Lifeguarding, CPR, First Aid and others. This network is built using internet, e-mail and cell phones.

So let’s take a look at Lifeguard courses!

Lifeguard Courses

The ALA lifeguard course covers all areas including lifeguarding, courses, training courses and classes, offering two different certifications: one for both shallow and deep water; the other, shallow water only. They cost the same and the training is similar.

The purpose of this lifeguarding course is to teach future lifeguards the knowledge and skills to respond to aquatic emergencies and also to prevent them. Candidates participate in content and activities that prepare them to recognize dangers and emergencies, and to respond quickly and effectively to them. This involves preventing drowning and injuries.

The training course is arduous, requiring great physical stamina of participants. ALA encourages candidates to go for a check-up with their doctor before enrolling in the program.

US labor laws require persons to be of 15 years or older to work at an aquatic centre like pool, waterpark or lake, and they must be 16 years or older to work at a beach.

The following skills are required to pass the course:

Swimming 300 yards continuously, demonstrating these strokes in this order:

  • 100 yards of breaststroke with the proper pull, breathe, kick and glide in that order
  • 100 yards of front crawl. Instructors will watch for rhythmic breathing, either to the side or to the front, and a proper kick that stabilizes and propels the swimmer
  • 100 yards of either front crawl or breaststroke; can be a combination of both
  • swim 20 yards using front crawl or breast stroke, dive 7-10 from the surface, pick up a 10 pound object and return to the surface, then swim 20 yards back to the starting point, with the object, and leave the water without steps or a ladder. This must be done within one minute and 40 seconds.

Shallow Water

The shallow water certification allows lifeguards who are not strong swimmers but could swim 50 yards. They also need to practice with a brick. These individuals, who are not strong swimmers but have no fear of water, can be lifeguards in pools with only shallow water.

Deep Water

Those looking for deep water lifeguard certification have to pass some tests, one of these being swimming 300 years continuously.

For example, if you are at the beach, the shallow area can extend quite a distance before you reach any deep water.

While many young people may run into trouble in shallow water, it is obvious that others would have difficulty in deep water. Sometimes you see people drifiting out on inflatable toys, falling asleep to the lull of the waves, and before you know it they are much farther out than they wanted to be.

Hopefully this person would be able to propel themselves back into the shallow areas, but this is where you need a deep water lifeguard.

Some recreational/professional pools have extremely deep ends.

Individuals looking for this certification also need to be able to swim 40 yards with a 10lb weight attached to them to ensure they could tow a body.

If an individual does not pass this test but passes all other areas of training, they will be given shallow water certification. They are also allowed to try again later and if they pass the test, they receive updated credentials at no extra cost. This is an example of how much ALA truly cares about creating good lifeguards.

Professional Lifeguard Recertification

This program is for those who were lifeguards in the past. This doesn’t mean you need a current certification; if you had one at any point, but it’s not up to date, then you can sign up for this program and get certified again. This training covers lifeguarding, CPR and AED, first aid, oxygen supplement and blood pathogens.

After completing the course with success, each participant is given an American Lifeguard Certificate, which says they have sufficient training in Lifeguard, CPR/AED for Professional Rescuer, and First Aid. These are all valid for two years.

Participants learn the following skills:


  • stride and compact jumps
  • slide-in entry
  • simple assist
  • rescue approach using either front crawl or breaststroke
  • extension assist from the deck
  • reaching assist with equipment and throwing assist
  • swimming extension rescue
  • active and passive drowning victim rear rescue
  • two-person removal from water using a backboard
  • passive submerged victim in shallow water
  • multiple victim rescue
  • feet-first surface dive
  • submerged victim in deep water
  • front and rear head-hold escape


  • using a backboard for a standing victim on land
  • manual in-line stabilization for a head, neck or back injury on land – lying down, sitting or standing
  • head splint technique for both face-up and face-down victim in shallow water or near surface
  • head and chin support for face-up and face-down victim in shallow water
  • head splint technique for face-up and face-down victim in deep water
  • head and chin support for face-up victim in deep water or near surface
  • in-line stabilization for a submerged victim who is face-up, face-down or on one side in deep water
  • using a backboard in shallow and deep water


  • removing glasses
  • initial assessment
  • rescue breathing
  • using bag-valve-mask resuscitator with two rescuers
  • conscious and unconscious choking adult, child or infant
  • CPR for adult, child and infant
  • Using an AEd for adult and child


  • secondary assessment
  • controlling external bleeding
  • applying sling and binder
  • applying anatomic splint
  • applying soft splin


  • Scenario 1: active drowning victim
  • Scenario 2: submerged passive drowning victim
  • Scenario 3: head, back or neck injury

As you can see, there is a wide variety of scenarios where anything can go wrong, and it’s good to know that these individuals are properly trained to deal with all of them.

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