Guarding the difference between fun and tragedy for Tamworth lifeguards

THE Tamworth region may be a long way from the beach but lifesavers are just as important here as they are on the coast. 

To recognise the efforts of lifeguards employed at the region’s six pools over the recent summer season a barbecue breakfast awards morning was hosted at the South West Memorial Pool – Scully Park – on Saturday. 

Tamworth Regional Council’s technical officer of pools Gary Johnson said the “red and gold army” were the cogs of the operation throughout the summer. 

He said given all the tasks that go with running a centre, the work of the lifeguards at the region’s pools was often underestimated. 

“Standing in the heat all day, trying to stay focused on supervising the pool is not an easy task,” he said. 

Lifeguard diligence paid off again this summer. 

In early January a teenage boy had a seizure at the Scully Park pool – and slipped below the surface.

“The lifeguards responded and got the boy out of the pool, at which point he began breathing,” Mr Johnson said.

“An ambulance then transported the boy to hospital and he made a full recovery. 

“These kinds of events are rare, but have the potential to be tragic if we weren’t providing safe places for the public to swim.”

Mr Johnson said he had no doubt if it hadn’t have been for the quick thinking of lifeguards the outcome for the teenager would have been worse.

The Pool Lifeguard of the Year Award for this year was presented to Adam Parker. 

Mr Johnson said Adam had been an outstanding performer. He was awarded Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

“A very hard worker, Adam shows great attention to detail,” Mr Johnson said.

“He came to us originally from the Scully Park Swimming Club where he completed many life-saving awards right up to the level of instructor. 

“It has been relatively easy for him to transition to lifeguard.”

The Rookie Lifeguard of the Year was awarded to Chris Burke. 

“Chris’ forte is teaching swimming, which he has done extensively for us over the summer,” Mr Johnson said. 

“He is well known around the Tamworth City Pool and has swum many laps in it with the Tamworth City Swimming Club. 

“This year he decided to make the leap to lifeguard.  He is a competent worker who instantly puts staff and customers at ease.”

“It is a little known fact that our lifeguards face a more rigorous standard of training that is usual across the industry,” he said. 

“Staff are required to attend a number of theory and practical presentations and scenarios that help them develop as first responders.”

Over the past three years the council’s lifeguard team has been developing a risk based, drowning prevention training program for lifeguards specific to supervising public pools. 

“We are now working to integrate it into the wider industry,” Mr Johnson said.

“The Western Australia aquatic industry are leaders in drowning prevention at public pools and have been quick to begin the process of developing a framework to allow the local program to suit a wider training market.”

Each season Tamworth Regional Council presents two awards; the Pool Lifeguard of the Year Award and the Rookie Lifeguard of the Year Award. 

The awards recognise the efforts of lifeguards who have performed above and beyond the normal level of duty. 

Winners of the award are voted on by their peers who are then considered for the awards based on: diligence to active pool supervision, first aid and rescue skills, ability to lead by example, ability to be an effective team member, ability to work unsupervised, reliability, punctuality, professional appearance, and customer service skills.

LIFEGUARD AWARDS: Tamworth Regional Council’s annual lifeguard award winners, Lifeguard of the Year Adam Parker, left, and Rookie of the Year, Chris Burke.

LIFEGUARD AWARDS: Tamworth Regional Council’s annual lifeguard award winners, Lifeguard of the Year Adam Parker, left, and Rookie of the Year, Chris Burke.