National Lifeguard Service


National Lifeguard Service

National Lifeguard Service (NLS) is "the standard measure of lifeguard performance in Canada"[1]. All lifeguards and assistant lifeguards are certified by the Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada. The program was officially launched in 1964[2].

Contents

Legal status

Lifeguarding is regulated provincially (see Ontario's legislation, for example), but the standard requirement across Canada is National Lifeguard Service, though it may not be required by law. Bronze Cross certification is the minimum training required to be an assistant lifeguard. Where there is no legislation requiring NLS training for lifeguards, the Red Cross also offers a lifeguard training program, though the Lifesaving Society does not recognize it as equivalent to NLS.

When being paid or in a volunteer position, lifeguards have a legal obligation to render assistance to individuals experiencing a medical emergency or injury.

History

The National Lifeguard Service was instituted in 1964 to develop the skills, knowledge and judgment achieved in prior lifesaving and first aid training in a single standard certification. The NLS Advisory Committee was composed of the Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, Lifesaving Society, Canadian Forces, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Lifesaving society took responsibility for administering the NLS award in 1973, after a major revision of the program's operational standards. The latest revision was in 2004, and another is underway as of June 2008. In response to American Red Cross attempts to introduce their lifeguarding course in Canada, the CPRA unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to a single lifeguarding standard in Canada in 2006[3], as did the NLS Advisory Committee in 2007[4]. That single standard is NLS.

Structure

Prerequisite training

NLS candidates must have the Bronze Cross certification, need to be current on exam day. The official designation received from this course is of a "Lifesaver". The course stresses risk prevention, and differentiates a moral obligation for candidates to render assistance to those in aquatic emergencies relative to legal obligations required by lifeguards in a dedicated aquatic environment such as a pool. Rescuer safety is always stressed regardless of training and obligation; with that being said, a commonly held and debated philosophy is how lifesaving puts a rescuer's life before a victim's life, and vice versa for lifeguards. A common example of this is the "ladder approach" used in Bronze Cross (rescuers use the safest rescue technique, and proceed to more dangerous techniques only when needed), whereas the Pia Carry (immediate full-body contact with the victim) is common practise for lifeguards rescuing Drowning Non-Swimmers (DNS).

All NLS candidates must be 16 years of age on or before exam day. They must also hold both a current Standard First Aid certification and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate (sometimes restricted to those offered by the "Big Four": Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Canadian Ski Patrol or The Lifesaving Society of Canada), or an Aquatic Emergency Care certificate and CPR certificate offered by the Lifesaving Society. This amounts to about 100 hours of prerequisite training before one begins training as a lifeguard in Canada.

Training options

The Lifesaving Society of Canada's NLS program exists in 4 separate specializations, or "options", based on operational settings: Pool, Waterpark, Waterfront and Surf.

The NLS Pool option is composed of "core" components, or basic skills and abilities required of all candidates in the NLS program. These core components address aquatic emergencies (rescue of drowning/non-swimmers, injuries from waterborne accidents, etc.), essential first aid skills, and proficiency in using aquatic emergency equipment (long spine-boards, etc.). Since the Pool option adequately prepares candidates to respond to general aquatic emergencies encountered in most aquatic facilities, employers requesting an NLS certification from potential lifeguard-applicants generally seek a Pool option certification, unless operational demands of the particular facility require one of the three other NLS options. Accordingly, the Pool option is the pre-requisite certification for specialized training of the three other NLS options.

The NLS Waterpark option is the certification required to provide lifeguarding services in leisure parks equipped with fixed water features. These features include wave pools, water slides, and zero-depth "beach" landings/entryways, all of which present particular variations in rescue procedures than those found in the Pool/core components, and thus builds upon the basic skills and essential Pool/core components which candidates are certified with.

The NLS Waterfront option trains lifeguards for rescues on beaches with calm water, lakes or calm ocean conditions, differentiated from the previous two options from operation in an outdoor, rather than controlled indoor, environment.

The NLS Surf option trains lifeguards with rescue techniques for locations which experience surf conditions quite regularly. Because of the rarity of surf beaches in Canada, the Surf option has only been instructed in two locations in the country, one in Tofino, BC; the other in Nova Scotia, and only during specific times of the year. The Surf option program was developed in conjunction with representatives of Australia's surf lifeguards.

Provincial variations in NLS rescue techniques and operation exist, yet all the fundamental skills, knowledge and abilities of the NLS program are standardized across Canada for all potential and practicing lifeguards. For example, lifeguards in British Columbia and the Yukon retain a "targeted responder" status in their Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) standards, whereas those in other provinces have a "lay rescuer" status. Another example is several eastern provinces requiring lifeguards to carry buoyant rescue aids, such as a torpedo buoy or PFD, while on duty.

References


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