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20 answers to 20 questions I had before starting my role as a Disney lifeguard

Before starting my program, I scoured the internet to information specifically related to being a Disney lifeguard. It took me hours to find what I was looking for, and still some questions remained unanswered. The main reason I wanted to make this blog was to create content and answer questions that I was unable to find elsewhere.

For anyone as clueless as I was, I hope this helps.

  1. Do you need previous lifeguard experience? No, they will give you extensive training when you arrive. You just need to be able to swim.
  2. Will I be drug tested? Yes, lifeguarding is a safety critical role. All safety critical roles are fingerprinted and drug tested.
  3. What is the training like? You go through three days of Ellis training, and then three days of on the job training (OJT) at your location. You have to test out of both Ellis and OTJ training.
  4. What is the swim test? The shallow water swim test is: swim 50 yards (down and back one time), tread water for two minutes, and retrieve a 10 lb brick from five feet of water (using a feet-first surface dive). The deep water swim test is: swim 200 yards (down and back four times), tread water for two minutes with your hands out of the water, and retrieve a 10 lb brick from eight feet of water (using a feet-first surface dive).
  5. Are you testing on anything other than swimming? Yes. On your third day of Ellis training you will be tested on water rescues, CPR, first-aid, choking, etc. On your third day of on the job training you will be assessed on the rules and regulations of your location. The second test is called your KAPA (knowledge assessment, performance assessment). Prior to both of these tests, you go through 2+ days of training which will prepare you for these assessments.
  6. Should I practice for the test before my arrival date? This is up to you. If you are placed in shallow water, the test is only: swim 50 meters and retrieve a block from five feet of water (nothing too difficult). If you are placed in deep water, the test is more difficult: swim 200 meters, retrieve a block from eight feet of water, tread water with your hands out of the water. If you hope to be able to pass the deep water test, I recommend practicing. I will placed in shallow water, and I did not practice at all.
  7. What happens if I fail the test? If you pass the shallow water requirements, but fail the deep water ones you will be moved from a deep water location to a shallow water location. If you do not pass the shallow water requirements you will be recast to a new role.
  8. What are the costumes like? For shallow water, you are required to wear a one piece swimming suit underneath a white polo shirt (you can choose between a short sleeve or long sleeve option), and red shorts. All lifeguards are required to wear sunglasses and a hat until the sun goes down. You are given a name tag, whistle, and hip pack that you are required to wear. For shoes, you can wear company issued black crocs, company issued white sneakers, store bought black crocs, or solid black Tevas (or something similar to a Teva sandle). If you choose to wear the sneaker option, you are required to wear white socks that are long enough to cover your ankles. As a shallow water guard, there is no point where you will be working without your polo shirt and shorts on.
  9. Can I wear sunglasses? Yes, you are required to actually. You need to be able to clearly see your eyes through the lenses. When the sun goes down, you can not wear sunglasses.
  10. Can I wear a watch? Yes, but it can not connect to your phone/receive notifications. It needs to be a neutral color.
  11. Can I buy my own shoes? Yes. You can buy your own plain white, nonslip sneakers, your own black crocs, or your own black sandals (they need to be similar style to the Tevas). With the sneakers, they need to be 100% white. With the sandals, they need to be 100% black. The sandals can not have a strap that goes around the big toe. Some locations allow you to wear Chacos. Some do not. It’s up to the discretion of your leaders.
  12. Can I buy my own water bottle? Yes, but they also provide you with one that works great. If you choose to buy your own, it needs to be either black or metalic.
  13. Can lifeguards participate in pin trading? No. Lifeguards are not permitted to wear pin trading lanyards. Your focus should be on the safety of the guests, not trading pins.
  14. What are the typical shifts you get? For resorts, in the summer and fall there are two shifts. The AM shift and the PM shift. The AM shift arrives before the pool opens (at my resort it was 8:15) and stays until mid afternoon. The PM shift arrives mid afternoon and stays until after the pool closes (at my resort it was 10:30). You typically get scheduled 5 days a week during these times. In the winter, the pool hours shorten. Therefore at my resort we switched to working 10 hour shifts, 4 days a week.
  15. How many hours a week are you typically scheduled? In the fall, I got scheduled about 32-36 hours a week. In the winter, I got scheduled about 36-40 hours a week.
  16. Is it hard to get days off? During your CP, you are given one day of approved days off (ADO) for every month you work. Therefore, for my CP I was given 5 days of ADO (August-January). I put in my ADO requests on the HUB, and got all 5 approved right away. If you don’t have any more ADO days or your requests didn’t get approved, as a resort lifeguard you can try and trade your shift with anyone from any of the resorts. If both of these options do not work out, it is up to the discretion of your leader to decide if you can simply give your shift away.
  17. How does trading shifts for lifeguards work? You can find someone from your resort willing to trade with you, or find someone on a designated Facebook page to trade with. You then speak with your leader about the trade. If the trade gets approved by your leader, you can go onto the HUB and put in the shift trade.
  18. If you get placed at a resort, can you pick up shifts at the water parks? You need to be deep water trained to work at the water parks. If you work at any resort other than Yacht and Beach Club, you will only be trained for shallow water. Therefore, no you can not.
  19. What happens if it rains during my shift? You still stay on stand. If it begins raining so hard that the you cannot see the bottom of the pool, the pool gets cleared until the rain lightens up. However, during this time, the lifeguards remain on stand at the pool. The only time the pool gets closed and the guards can leave their stand is if there is lightning in the area.
  20. What happens if I do not feel comfortable working this role? Lifeguarding is a safety critical role. Therefore, your leaders only want you working if you are able to do your job well. If you have a lot of anxiety about being in this role after you finish all your training (both Ellis and OJT) and you have passed your KAPA then you can meet with your leader and express your concerns to them. At this point, they should work with you to have you recast to a different role. If your leaders are being difficult, you can get a medical accommodation for your anxiety. If you have a medical accommodation, you will be recast to a role that is better for your mental health. The reason most leaders want you to wait until you’ve passed your KAPA to go through with recasting is because it is normal to feel anxiety about this role at first. Training is intense and sometimes scary. I was incredibly overwhelmed at times. However, during my KAPA I realized I was prepared to do this. I felt less overwhelmed when I was actually on stand doing my job. I felt more confident in my abilities. Although I was anxious during my training, I realized I could do this and I did not need to be moved to a different role. Of course, this is not the case for everyone. This is why everyone meets with their leaders after their KAPA to assess if they are cut out to be a lifeguard or not.

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