HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
August 6, 2007, Herald Journal

A high-stake job for teenagers

By KRISTEN MILLER

Recently, a Fox 9 news investigation found some lifeguards in the Twin Cities are doing other things that is distracting them from their life-saving job.

The investigation came after a father was at the lake with his family. For a second, he took his eye off his daughter ,who had been in the water, and the next, she was out of sight.

She had gone underwater and all that remained was her hat. The lifeguard on duty wasn’t aware of it.

The man later went back and noticed one of the lifeguards on duty spent most of her time texting on her cell phone instead of doing her critical job.

Another video showed a lifeguard socializing with two of his friends while on duty.

This report wasn’t surprising to me, especially the texting. Some teenagers don’t have the responsibility it takes to hold such an important job. They may go through the training, but are only in it for the suntan.

In my experience at local swimming pools, the lifeguards are quite attentive, but as with anything, there are those that are slacking, as the investigation showed.

These lifeguards may be trained to save lives, but some of them aren’t taking it seriously.

I suppose they figure it’s (drowning) not going to happen on their watch, and the likelihood of it happening is probably pretty slim, but they should be alert and ready if it does.

Just days after this investigation aired, a 5-year-old drowned at a public beach in New Brighton. There were three lifeguards on duty.

Although the lifeguards pulled the boy out of the water and performed CPR, a swimmer was the one who felt an object under the water and found it was the boy.

I just wonder if the lifeguards were watching the water, or if they were distracted by something else? We’ll probably never know.

I’m sure it’s hard to watch everyone in the water, especially when the beach is full. But if the beach is too full for the lifeguards to handle, they should call on another guard or set a capacity for the number of swimmers allowed.

Although swimming and playing in the water is fun to do, it also can be dangerous. That’s why there are lifeguards.

Granted, parents should be watching their kids at the lake or in the pool, but many have confidence in lifeguards and tend to depend on them so they can relax, as well. I can’t blame them for that.

Being a lifeguard is a big responsibility. Most jobs teenagers have are under supervision. Lifeguards go unsupervised and are free to do as they choose as long as no one reports them.

This is a much too important a job to allow teenagers to be unsupervised.

If lifeguards are going to have the freedom to work unsupervised, they need to understand the importance of their jobs and know that when it comes to drowning, every second counts. Also, the city or whomever employs the lifeguards, need to do random checks or have an adult lifeguard on duty, as well.

When it comes to lifeguarding, lives are actually at stake, unlike working in a supermarket.