Before being hired, Miami Beach Ocean Rescue lifeguards must complete a physical swim test – 200-yard run/500-yard swim/200-yard run – in 12 minutes or less. Preparing for the physical test, it is necessary to be accustomed to open-water swimming. There are no swimming lanes in the ocean.
An oral interview, background check, and drug testing are required before a lifeguard is qualified to go through the training academy. Lifeguards entering the academy must be state or nationally certified EMTs. Academy training prepares participants for all aspects of medical certifications and surf lifesaving.
Training addresses water surveillance, recognition of aquatic life and hazards, preventive lifeguarding, underwater search and recovery, and the use of all rescue apparatus.
That equipment has evolved, along with rescue techniques – from man-powered surf dories (rowboats) rowed by lifeguards to Jet Skis and powerboats, and from manual resuscitation methods to cardiac defibrillators. ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) are used extensively for quick response and the ability to access remote areas. Using all the new equipment and techniques requires training.
When training is successfully completed, new lifeguards being evaluated on skills and ability are assigned to “shadow” veteran lifeguards. Miami Beach hires lifeguards initially in temporary positions, and those who excel are offered full-time positions.
Training continues year-round to keep skills at their highest levels. It includes rescue scenarios and mock drills. Ocean lifeguards must maintain a high level of fitness.
Personal watercrafts (PWCs) give lifeguards vessels that are launched easily from the beach. (A PWC is a Jet Ski® with a rescue sled attached to the back for victim transport.) Power-driven rescue boats are used by lifeguards for offshore rescue responses.
From the look in the eyes of that first distressed swimmer I brought in from the surf years ago to today, the satisfaction of helping has never been more fulfilling. I have found in myself that invincible summer.
My rescue radio’s abrupt call for help early on Labor Day threw me into action. Upon reaching the rescue scene, we found a distraught female floundering in the ocean. With assistance from fire rescue units, we successfully extricated her and sent her to a hospital for care and evaluation.