Calling all retired lifeguards: Lifesaving Society's Quebec branch needs your help

·2 min read
Rachelle Doucet was a lifeguard for three years back in the day, and is willing to help out this summer if needed.  (CBC - image credit)
Rachelle Doucet was a lifeguard for three years back in the day, and is willing to help out this summer if needed. (CBC - image credit)

Rachelle Doucet is diving back into a job she hasn't done for years.

"Lifeguarding was an amazing job. I loved it," she said, recounting her three years of experience at both a tennis club and a city pool.

"I don't work during the summer, so I would definitely be into getting back into it, doing a few hours here or there."

The fact that Doucet is even considering going back part-time is great news for the Lifesaving Society in Quebec, but many more like her are needed.

The organization is putting out a desperate plea for help, encouraging not only young people to get certified, but also for retired lifeguards to get back in the chair.

Doucet, who works as a guidance counselor for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, has the time to chip in, but she admits, it was a bit surprising to hear how short-staffed pools and swimming areas are because "it's a very cool job. It's a very fun job."'

At the same time, she added, it makes sense given the lack of certifications handed out during the pandemic when things like classes and aquatic centres were shut down.

Quebec averages about 80 drownings per year, said Raynald Hawkins, general manager of the Lifesaving Society's Quebec branch.

"One drowning is one too much because we know they are preventable," he said.

Matt D'Amours/CBC
Matt D'Amours/CBC

Teaching kids to swim also plays a crucial role in drowning prevention, but the pandemic did set lessons back significantly with many pools closed and restrictions on class sizes put in place.

In July 2020, Lifesaving Society Canada made 15 — lowered from 16 — the minimum age required for certification as a swim instructor, lifesaving instructor or lifeguard.

But that hasn't been enough to fill the gaps in staffing, so the organization is turning to people like Doucet for help.

"Our recommendation to those candidates who are former lifeguards is, maybe you can take a CPR course or a first-aid course to maintain your skills," said Hawkins.

"And if you are good at swimming, perfect, you can follow the four-to-five hour National Lifeguard or Bronze Cross recertification anytime."

For those who have misplaced their badges or certifications over the years, the organization says there is no need to worry as all the information is stored in its database.

Doucet said she would be open to both teaching and lifeguarding at a pool close to home. She said it's her duty as a former lifeguard to get involved again.

Former lifeguard Lisa Labelle feels the same way. She's thinking about getting recertified as a lifeguard.

"It's so fun and important to see kids experience a lake for the first time," said Labelle. "We wouldn't be able to provide that if we didn't have lifeguards at our camps in the summertime."