First of all I'll explain why I'm upset.

This is pulled straight from the article about Katie, the girl that was saved.

Before me or my wife knew what hit us, Allison was running towards us screaming something about her sister. I looked up to see the young man carrying my Katie to the edge of the pool. Her eyes were rolled back in her head, her legs and face were blue, and she didn’t move an inch. Terror. There’s no other word to describe the moment. People who saw the whole thing said she wasn’t under for more than 30 seconds, but she had turned blue.

"Her eyes were rolled back in her head, her legs and face were blue, and she didn't move an inch. "

This doesn't just happen in a matter of seconds, neither does going underwater. When a guest who is unable to swim first jumps in and realizes it, they begin to struggle on the top of the surface. Most people think the guest would call for help, or scream...that's never the case. The only thing you hear is the sound of splashing water. The average non-swimmer guest is able to fight on the top of the water for about 10 seconds. As arduous as it sounds, A GOOD LIFEGUARD COVERS HIS ZONE EVERY TEN SECONDS SCANNING EACH LEVEL OF WATER AND MAKING SURE NOTHING IS GOING WRONG. I can't stress that point enough.

My pools would much rather hire a guard who actively scans their zone once every 10 seconds, than it would for someone who excels in opening airways, giving rescue-breathing, and if required, CPR. This is because you're catching the problem before it ever exists. While all our guards excel in all aspects of their training, the most important skill is scanning AND I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

I'd like to save stories and tips for questions you guys have. The crucial tips discussed will be edited into the top of my post for easy access.

So who am I?

In the last year I've had twenty-one active saves, three of which have come in the last week; which happens to be our opening week. My employer employs over 20 guards, many of which average the same amount of saves a summer as I do. We all work in the inner-city at public pools. That's right, that means we are employed by the government, and they are the one's paying the expense for our Ellis Training. In the last 3 years our facilities have only called 911 1 time, and if I recall correctly was in response to a child's asthma acting up, which meant we gave him oxygen, which requires a 911 call no matter the circumstance. Our pools are the safest pools in town, even though some of them are flooded with over 500 guests/day swim.

I'm not here to boast about my saves, or the quality of guards trained by Ellis & Associates. I'm here to explain to parents what they can do better to protect their children while also helping us out. I'm here to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge based on my own experiences in the chair and my training.

I'm willing to verify with the mod's but I'd prefer to keep my employer and pool location disclosed.

Also if you're still curious as to what Ellis is, check out their website.

Comments: 89 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

aurizon31 karma

I felt that these parents were not properly supervising their daughter. A lifeguard must have that recurring sweep of his water area, as you say, every 10 seconds or less. When you allow your child to enter a pool area. look at the guard, and se if he has that recurring scan of his area - or is he reading a book - or?

fleet_the_fox25 karma

I'd be all for parent's watching a lifeguard before having their children swim in their zone.

With my experience parents aren't always there. A 12 year old kid is sent to the pool with their siblings ranging for 4-10 and are expected to watch over their brothers and sisters. This is a lot of responsibility to put on a 12 year old in a pool. A lot of people exclaim- "Don't let these kids in the facility, that's just asking for trouble," and I agree to an extent, but I would much rather have good guards covering for these kids, which I know we have, than to have these kids out on the streets for the day while their mom is at work. Again there are different circumstances for each pool, and the location of our pool gives us an obligation to care for these kids. To many we are a daycare. Whether you agree or disagree with that kind of parenting, we can't control it.

mudze9 karma

Do you believe the guard in question should be fired, or reprimanded in some way?

fleet_the_fox28 karma

I definitely don't think he should be praised as a hero... he wasn't doing his job no matter how much everyone seems to think he actually was. If someone got pulled out of my zone unconscious and blue...I'd resign on the spot after resuscitating of course. It's embarrassing, and it's sad that he's taking the praise.

vawdit8 karma

I agree with being proactive. However the rescue may have gone down, performing rescue breathing or CPR on a small child can be one very stressful, challenging, and overall difficult feat to have to perform. You must agree as well, perhaps give nick a bit more credit.

fleet_the_fox11 karma

Performing compressions is avoidable by proactive scanning. Moving your head and paying attention is by no means difficult. I'd much rather never be recognized for my skill in CPR because of my ability to stop the issue before it happens. If it had been an elderly man or woman who had a heart attack and nick did compressions until the EMS arrived then it would be a completely different story. Unfortunately this little girl was swimming without pepper supervision by parents and the guard was being lazy.

vawdit2 karma

The point is he was able to pull his slack by successfully performing the last resort method of rescue breathing and CPR and that is hard whether you were proactive or not. He didn't give up, he didn't freeze, or panic. For that he received praise. Life's not fair, and you deserve praise for being proactive.

Compare it to when we praise addicts for breaking the habit, of course they should have never started, but quitting is hard and they deserve praise.

fleet_the_fox5 karma

I don't like the argument that failing to scan is like failing to abstain from drugs. Think of it like when you fill out your allergies at the doctor then the doctor fails to look at the paperwork close enough and now you're fighting for your life because of your severe penecilin reaction. That's on the doctor and always will be.

sumpfkraut666-10 karma

his little girl was swimming without pepper supervision

why would it help if there were a pepper plant supervising it? I always thought all life guards were humans. Is it because plants demand less pay?

fleet_the_fox9 karma

You didn't know?? Peppers have a global floating perk that allows anyone within radius to float without effort.

umakemelaugh8 karma

What is Ellis training versus other training? How is it different? How many types of other systems or training are there?

Personally, when my kiddos were little, I kept a closer eye on them than the lifeguard did. I felt like the lifeguards would get too distracted sometimes, or too caught up in talking while guarding. If your training and method of guarding is safer than the standard, then I would have LOVED to have you guard my kids.

fleet_the_fox16 karma

Ellis stresses scanning way more than red cross does. We also have external audits performed by Ellis representatives throughout the summer. They come in and video tape each guard, looking for movement of the chin, this means literal zig-zagging of your zone making sure you're covering each and every corner and center, along with a bottom scan. After video taping, they VAT, Visual Awarness Test, a guard. They basically drop a fake baby and the guard has 10 seconds to respond to it. If they don't see the doll in 10 seconds they're pulled form the chair, sent home, and have to go to a 2 hour in-service before they can return to the chair. They also can only fail one VAT before they're fired. These VATs don't just occur when Ellis shows up 2x a summer, they are also performed by our managers multiple times/summer. After the VAT the Ellis representative will ask us to run through scenarios and record our response. Then they rate us.

Any other questions?

Lu_Ten7 karma

When doing scenarios do the auditors record you on camera?

fleet_the_fox5 karma

Yes, we get a copy for us to study and learn from at our next inservice.

LittleKey2 karma

I understand the importance of all that, but jeez it must be stressful for the lifeguard to know that these tests could be sprung on them at any moment.

fleet_the_fox7 karma

It's more stressful knowing that at any moment someone could be drowning without you seeing it happen. Stress forces you to do your best scanning, and each time you jump in and save another life, it's all worth it. Also, saves come sooner or later as well, especially at my pool. Our guards probably have a 4:1 save to VAT ratio. You worry about seeing the save, missing the VAT only costs you your job, missing a save is a much bigger deal.

ulyssessword5 karma

What is the best safety tip you can share with the general public?

fleet_the_fox22 karma

This is a tough question to answer. I would say a lot of the safety is up to the facility and maintaining a standard. But for parents, please please please, even if you personally can't swim, put your children in swim lessons and stop the continuation of generations in your family that can't swim. Also, there's nothing wrong with showing up to swim lessons as a 30 year old, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A KID. There's so many families who never teach their kids because they never learned themselves. Lose some pride and learn, it's worth it when it saves your kids life.

krepitus4 karma

I've been involved with only two near drownings of small children, and they didn't splash around. Both times the child was in arms reach of an adult, and they made very little commotion in the water. I'm not a life guard, I just happened to be near by when I saw them. Both times the only thing above water was the top of their heads, one kid had his eyes above water. Their arms and legs stayed below the surface, and the only indication that something was wrong was the desperate trading of water, and their head tipping back in a vain attempt to get their nose and mouth above the surface.

Edit: I'm not contradicting anything you say. Just mentioning my experiences. I think many life guards believe they're just there as a formality, or as a security guard there to enforce the rules. My kids are 13, and 11 so I don't follow them around the pool when they go, but I wish the guards knew we're putting our kids lives in their hands. What they do is important.

fleet_the_fox2 karma

We get sinkers too who go stiff and do exactly what you described, I'm just explaining what you need to recognize as probably around 80% of active guests.

Holbac4 karma

You are critical of the lifeguard in question. Couldn't it also be a case of management, I mean do we know how big of an area he was assigned to cover? What his prior training was?

For example if someone is managing a large pool and hires an inexperienced life guard, provides him some sort of basic training, should we fault the guy for taking credit when he saves a life? Even when other training methods may have prevented the issue in the first place?

fleet_the_fox2 karma

You're right, I don't know the size of the pool. And if he was placed somewhere he shouldn't have been, covering more than he should, then shame on the management. However, an experienced guard can cover a good amount of water, anywhere you can reach within 20 seconds of recognizing an issue. Also, even Red Cross does a good job at making sure they have enough guards covering a zone. I still stand by my statement that someone going active is easy to notice and for her to go under and be under long enough to go unconscious is unacceptable.

veteran_lifeguard3 karma

u/fleet_the_fox are a little too intense. I was an Ellis lifeguard for 8 years and worked at an inner city pool (read as ghetto). Lots of kids that did not know how to swim would come into the facility all the time. I will agree that Red Cross lifeguards are generally a joke, but there are obviously exceptions. Just as there are Ellis guards that don't know what they are doing. VAT training and audits help, but during the summer facilities need guards and will take substandard guards.

Honestly, if you are making as many saves as you say you are, then you are not doing a good job of lifeguarding. Those people/kids should not end up in an area that they can't navigate safely. Swim checks and visual scans of both the pool and those approaching it need to occur constantly. In my 8 years of lifeguarding I only performed 3 rescues. I find that the key to successful lifeguarding is being outspoken with the patrons. Guards who won't yell at kids/adults for breaking rules are the most dangerous because they allow patrons to push the limits and that's when serious rescues can happen

fleet_the_fox2 karma

There is no doubt that commanding children and setting barriers help prevent active saves. The 2-3 saves per day is an average across all three of our pools, that totals close to 1000 patrons a day. You're looking at .3% of total patrons swimming in you're pool. Those aren't bad numbers whatsoever. We also have large slides, diving boards, and sudden slants which are easy for children to find themselves in an unexpected circumstance.

We're in charge of other people's children, imagine your child, your niece or nephew, or grandchildren... I think it's safe to say the precautions our pools make and our expectations of our guards is by no means something that should be slacked back on, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future. There's a reason we are the safest pools out city.

elleyia3 karma

do your pools have a maximum occupancy?

my local pools can get so crowded you can barely stand, much less actually swim or play. it's boring and i've always thought kind of unsafe...

fleet_the_fox0 karma

We do have capacity, although it's actually pretty high, the 500 mentioned above is our capacity at our busiest pools, another is around 150, and then our middle I believe is at 350.

stavvie343 karma

As another Ellis guard, who has only been working for about a month though, how stressed are you working public pools? Are there different areas of higher stress? (I assumr shallows).

I work at a local waterpark. Kids fly through slides and get stuck under things in the current of a lazy river. High stresses are positions for me are where you have to be walking as well, not up in the chair.

fleet_the_fox3 karma

We have slides and diving boards. I would say 75% of our saves come in the same zones. Deep ends and along ropes where kids are pushed by current or without knowledge cross and find themselves in suddenly deeper waters.

loves_reposts2 karma

Can you describe in more detail what someone looks like when they are drowning? Most people think of movies and TV in which someone is yelling for help, which doesn't serm to be the case. It sounds like they are trying to push themselves above the surface of the watet, so to speak.

fleet_the_fox1 karma

Imagine someone on the surface of the pool slapping the water, chin towards the sky and eyes of panic. Even if you ask them if they need help they won't respond, too much is being processed in this fight for life.

JamesRawles2 karma

I've been contemplating becoming a lifeguard. Would my EMT certification help obtain a higher start of pay?

fleet_the_fox4 karma

At our facilities you'd probably start as a head guard so yes, an extra dollar an hour. They like to see that kind of training on a resume.

JamesRawles3 karma

I looked at Ellis website, no future trainings in my area. Looked up jobs, and most list Red Cross as the required training. It sounds like the Ellis training is better, but not as practical as Red Cross.

fleet_the_fox2 karma

It's expensive. I'm not saying Red Cross is terrible, there are plenty of good guards that guard with Red Cross training. It's up to the guard to protect their zone, and to take it as serious as possible. Unfortunately far too often this gets lost.

Also, I've worked at a Red Cross facility. When I told them I was Ellis trained I was hired on the spot, given a brief test where they allowed me to use my training, and paid me more than the other guards. Those jobs you looked up have heard of Ellis and will reward you for your training if you can find a place somewhat nearby to acquire it.

m40ofmj2 karma


fleet_the_fox1 karma

You also probably lived in upper middle class white suburbia. A lot of people don't have the opportunity you have, and you have to prepare for them to be your guests at a public pool in the inner city.

tronpalmer2 karma

Why would you be enraged about that. Coming from a REAL lifeguard (ocean rescue) of 4 years, I can tell you that yes, it can happen. That quick. All it takes is one or two bug gulps of water instead of air for you to stop breathing. Especially if this guy was on the other side of the pool.

The fact of the matter is, you don't know all the details surrounding this story. What we do know, though, is that he did in fact save her life, and that makes him a hero in my book. Come back to me when you have to swim 200 yards out then swim back in with a rip current blocking your way all while carrying a 200lb person.

fleet_the_fox8 karma

I understand where you're coming from, I've spent a lot of time surfing myself in bali, but you have to understand the circumstance. A pool is completely different from open water and that's discussed in our training. I'm not here to measure dicks, I'm here to point out that had he been proactive, swimming pool drownings can be prevented.

wolframite2 karma

It sounds like the Ellis method requires a high degree of concentration. And, with lifeguards obviously having human limits - are there maximum durations or rules set in place so that one is not trying to achieve the impossible?

fleet_the_fox3 karma

I don't know about actual limits set by Ellis on how long you can be in a chair, but my facility does a great job. Worst case scenario is an hour and a half before you get a ten minute break; however you're being rotated to a new zone every 25 minutes so you get something new to zigzag. Trust me that helps out a lot more than you think, and this only happens on the busiest days. Most of the time we spend an hour up, and 30 minutes down throughout the whole day.

wolframite1 karma

Have you or other Ellis-trained lifeguards discovered this zigzag scanning method to benefit you in other aspects of your life? I am thinking about simple crime prevention - making certain that you are not a victim of a mugging or rape. Lots of people make it easier for criminals by looking down at their smartphone or by tuning out with headphones [and research indicates that distracted people make attractive potential victims]. Beyond that however, even one is smart enough not to impair their attention, it's somewhat unnatural for the average person to constantly check their surroundings let alone their six. Many mugging victims will report that their attack came out of nowhere but in many cases, had they been paying more attention, they might have spotted them coming and been able to take appropriate counter-measures; I've experienced this myself - luckily as a non-victim. This writer was not so lucky:

fleet_the_fox0 karma

The extent of which we zigzag in the chair would be way too arduous to pull in everyday life. I will however admit that since I was trained three years ago, I'm quicker to pick up on something out of place, so I guess that would help in crime prevention. One of the biggest things we learn is the tendency for our peripherals to betray us and to not rely on them, which means us guards are focusing on what we're looking at any given time which helps you process your surroundings and pick up on something out of place.

cahaseler1 karma

Please message the mods or provide proof!

fleet_the_fox2 karma

Working on it right now!

cizessio1 karma

how often do you find people flirting with the lifeguards? ;)

fleet_the_fox2 karma

At our pool never, and that might blow your mind. Our guards command guests and enforce rules, normal conversations will get you pulled and sent home. We run a strictly no bull shit facility. We have to with the number of guests we get and the amount of non swimmers in the pool. I can honestly calculate (because our smaller pool has consistent regulars) that at this pool at any given moment 20% of our patrons can't swim.

Coastie0711 karma

One of my favorite boot camp stories is of a guy, who have never swam in his life, literally sinking to the bottom of the pool as soon as he dived in during the swim test.

Of course two lifeguards were immediately in the water, and got him out in no time, but this leads to my question: What are your thoughts and opinions on people with no swimming experience jumping straight into the deep end?

fleet_the_fox2 karma

We've only experienced this once, and it was a different guard. In this case the patron was on his 30s, knew he couldn't swim, and even said, "if I start drowning you'll save me right?" or something along those lines. Most of our saves are with kids wading into deeper areas or just thinking they know how to swim, and we hear that sentence a lot throughout the summer. The guard simply nodded yes assuming the patron was joking. In this case; however, the patron was able to stay surfaced like I've described earlier. Guard wasn't happy, patron was kicked out for pretty much trolling a working guard.

ldegs-3 karma

What a pretentious ass you are!!! I also spent a few years life guarding and not every pool is the same. Not every scenario is the same. You don't know if the girl went unconscious underwater, or if someone was pulling her.

Also, who wants to go to a pool where every guard has over 20 saves a year? That pool sounds terribly dangerous, and I would never send my kid there. I had 1 in my 3 years life guarding, because we had a safe family friendly pool. You don't want to boast about your saves, but in reality you are. You are also a douche. That is all.

fleet_the_fox1 karma

You read incorrectly, I've had 20 saves over 3 years. I'm sorry you're sad.

Fuzzy-Hat1 karma

I don't get it sorry you said you average 2/3 saves a day? but you only have 20 saves in 3 years, So how does that actually add up? Do you only have life guard duty like a couple days a year? I don't mean to sound like im doubting you or anything so sorry if It comes across that way im just genuinely confused by the numbers.

fleet_the_fox3 karma

7 guards are up at a time to cover the whole pool.

Fuzzy-Hat1 karma

So the pool averages 2/3 saves a day? Not you personally?

fleet_the_fox2 karma

The pools, all three of us combined.

heyfella-14 karma

fleet_the_fox15 karma

I think the safety of children is important enough to be seen by the masses, which is why I posted in IAMA. I'm sorry to disagree with you.