Lifeguarding 101

DCP Lifeguard 101: swim test and Ellis training

Swim Test

As a lifeguard, one of the most important things Disney needs to know is, can you swim? Therefore, during your first week you will be required to take a swim test. Personally, I was pretty stressed out about the test. I had heard different stories from different people about how the test goes, and I was worried I would not be able to pass the deep water test. I had no previous lifeguarding experience, and I had never swam on a swim team. I was just a regular person with very average swimming skills. I am here to tell you my experience in hopes that it will help you relax a little.

The first group to get tested was the deep water lifeguards. Deep water guards are anyone working at Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Yacht and Beach resort.

Lifeguards taking the deep water test were first required to swim 200 meters. That is down and back 4 times. If someone was halfway through the 200 meter swim and they realized they were exhausted and couldn’t keep going they were allowed to stop. If someone stopped early, they were instructed to just tell the coordinators that they passed the shallow water requirement (50 meters).

If you were originally cast for deep water, but only passed the shallow water requirements then you will just be moved to a shallow water location (you will NOT get termed or recast to a new role).

Once the deep guards finished their 200 meter swim, they immediately moved on to retrieving a 10 lb brick from 8 feet of water. When retrieving the brick, they needed to remain upright at all times (feet first), and once they got to the bottom of the pool they needed to squat down or sit at the bottom of the pool to pick up the brick. To retrieve the brick, you were not supposed to bend over at any point (you can bend down, but your head can’t go below your waste).

After that, the deep water guards had to tread water for 2 minutes with their hands out of the water (because if you’re saving someone you won’t be able to use your hands to tread).

If they were able to complete all three of these tasks, they passed. If they were not able to complete the deep water tasks, but they could complete the shallow water tasks then they were to be assigned a new location (at a shallow water resort).

Our group was the first shallow water group. Shallow water guards are anyone working at a resort that is not Yacht and Beach Club (Yacht and Beach is the only deep water resort). Our test was a lot less intense. We were required to swim 50 meters (down and back). Then we needed to retrieve a 10 lb brick from 5 feet of water using the same feet-first guidelines as the deep water guards (squatting rather than bending over).

If we were able to complete these two tasks, then we passed. Simple as that.

Key takeaways

  • don’t drown, if you get too tired just stop at the side of the pool
  • if you are originally given a deep water location, but you can not pass the deep water test you will simply be moved to a shallow water location (so don’t stress yourself out)

Ellis Training

Before you can start your on the job training, you will need to go through three days of Ellis training in order to become a licensed lifeguard.

In order to prepare you for this, I am going to be honest. It is intense. As lifeguards, we are responsible for making sure everyone walks away from this vacation alive and well. At Ellis, they want you to understand how seriously you need to take your job.

The first day was difficult. We watched videos of children drowning. We saw how it affected the family, the community, and the lifeguards themselves. It was hard to watch, but it was important to watch. Ellis taught us how to do better, and to make sure that never happens while we are on the stand.

My training was three days in a row, eight hours each day. In the morning during the first two days we were out in the pool learning rescues, back-boarding, and spinal recoveries. In the afternoon of the first two days we were inside learning CPR and first aid. The third day is a mix of practicing for the tests, and taking the tests.

The first two days were a little overwhelming. It’s a lot of information to take in. However, they drilled the information into us repeatedly for a reason. They wanted to help us remember it so we could pass our tests. I had floor burns on my knees from kneeling and doing so many rounds of CPR, but I am grateful for the battle wounds because the instructors made me 100% prepared to take my test.

When it comes time to take the tests (group testing in the water, individual CPR, and a written test), try not to stress yourself out too much. They give you a study guide. Most of the questions on the study guide are on the written test, so fill that out and study it. For the group testing, if you fail you can try again one time. For the written test, if you get more than 10/50 questions wrong, you can try again one time. For the CPR, you can try again one time if you fail. The Ellis instructors do not expect perfection because in real life nothing goes perfectly. They just expect you to be able to show them that you have the knowledge and the skills to be able to save someone’s life and prevent further injury.

If you’re stressing out after reading this, just know that all 24 of us in my class passed the tests on the first try.

Key takeaways:

  • it’s intense because it’s important
  • you do not have to do everything perfectly, just keep everyone alive

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