Becoming a Disney lifeguard is no joke. You are the one responsible to make sure everyone stays safe in the pool on your watch. Especially with a company that holds itself to such a high standard like Disney, there were no cutting corners if it meant keeping their guests safe. In fact, every single member of the recreation department has to go through this training and do in-service. The actual training to become a lifeguard was spread over four days and used the Ellis Lifeguard Training Program.
The day began with the Swim Test. I may have siked myself out for this one, but I guess realizing that there was a little bit of grace was better than not being prepared. The swim test involves a 200-yard swim, 5ft brick dive, and two-minute tread. If you’re familiar with the Disneyland Hotel, then you should know that a 200-yard swim is 8 laps in the D-Ticket Pool. It was not an easy feat. We were not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool or take much of a break in-between, but we were allowed to switch between breaststroke and freestyle. A lot of people, including myself, struggled with this. It was probably the hardest part of the test. The brick dive on the other hand, the easiest. You jump in feet first, grab a 10-pound brick, stand up, and hold it above your head. Simple. The two-minute tread wasn’t very easy either, considering we had to do it in a 4-foot pool with our hands out of the water.
But like I said earlier, there was quite a bit of grace given to us. I was extremely nervous that I wasn’t going to pass, considering I don’t have much swim experience, but I did. Also, most of the pools don’t go deeper than 4 feet anyways, with the only exception of a 6-foot end at the Paradise Pier Hotel.
After we finished that up, we spent the rest of the day learning lifeguarding basics and CPR.
We spent the morning in the pool again, but this time we starting learning different rescues and how to get a GID (Guest in Distress) out of the pool on a backboard. By the time we finished that, it was lunchtime and we then spent the rest of the day perfecting our CPR skills.
Although CPR and certain lifeguarding techniques seem difficult, the trick is to perform them over and over again to make them second nature.
On the third day, we practiced our rescues on the slide areas at the Disneyland Hotel pools. The way this class was taught was like a cake. You get the foundations first and then you start putting on the decorations. So we learned CPR and rescue basics first, and then we started decorating them with different conditions.
Later in the day, after some practice, we had our CPR test. Although it seems kind of sudden and some people freaked out, it was all stuff we had been going over and over the days before.
At the end of this day, we finally got our lifeguard costume! We were instructed to wear it for our last day.
Finally, the end was here. My entire class suited up in our brand new lifeguard costume and did our rescue tests in the D-Ticket pool at the Disneyland Hotel. For the test, we had to do a rapid extrication of an unconscious GID and a spinal execration of a conscious GID (someone who has injured their neck and unable to get out the pool on their own). We did each rescue twice as we rotated roles (because one of us had to be the GID) and we had opportunities to practice and answer questions beforehand. It really wasn’t that bad, because it’s basically a group test that you can talk through.
After that, we had our written test. It’s 50 questions, but believe me when I say it’s easy. It’s all material that you have constantly gone over the last few days and a study guide is given to you at the beginning of the course. Most people in my class only missed one or two questions.
And that’s it! Think I was ready to be a lifeguard yet? NOPE. I still had four days of on-the-job training! Stay tuned…
(P.S. Yes, I got in the pool at 7am every morning. Yes, it was cold. Yes, we still had to do it. Unless it’s under 50 degrees, the pools stay open!)