Lifeguards put to the test as pools prepare to open -
Published Friday, May 24, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:39 am
Lifeguards put to the test as pools prepare to open

Jamie Garcia is a plumber, janitor, groundskeeper and even sees herself as a bit of a zookeeper.

The 21-year-old doesn't have four separate jobs. She performs all these duties as a lifeguard at Roanoke Traditional Pool.

“There's a lot to do,” Garcia said. “And part of it is watching these kids that act like little animals running around.”

She has worked as a lifeguard for six years. But before Garcia ever started “one of the most valuable jobs you can do as a 15- or 16-year old,” she said she had a lot of work to do.

Omaha lifeguards have to obtain certification, often through the American Red Cross.

Before they can take the certification class, they must pass a test that includes retrieving weighted objects from a pool and treading water without using their arms for two minutes.

Then comes a 25-hour class where future lifeguards learn how to properly look for and handle emergencies, according to the Red Cross' curriculum.

Lifeguards must show that they can rescue somebody from a pool; take a test where they perform CPR; use an automatic defibrillator; and pass a final written exam. The test features questions including what to do if someone is running by the pool side and the legal issues behind a swimmer collision.

Last year, 1,123 people went through the Red Cross certification process, according to Mary Matthiessen, service delivery manager for the Red Cross.

After a lifeguard is certified, the person has to go through orientation before he or she can work at a City of Omaha pool, aquatics coordinator Cheryll Peterson-Brachle said.

Every weekend since Easter, about 30 lifeguards are trained to work at Omaha city pools over the summer.

Derek Showalter, 19, has worked as a lifeguard at Montclair Swimming Pool for four years and has been helping with the training along the way.

The would-be lifeguards have to take a physical and written test and review basic lifeguarding subjects, Showalter said.

Lifeguards are required to do two hours of conditioning in the spring, one session as a group and another individually. Each session is a maximum of swimming 500 meters, Showalter said. That's swimming the length of an Olympic-size swimming pool 10 times.

The extensive training is necessary to have lifeguards ready for the summer, Peterson-Brachle said.

“It shows that we value skills and have a high standard,” Peterson-Brachle said. “We all know that if we don't practice skills, we don't keep these skills. There's maybe kids who haven't performed these skills since last summer.”

The city has 275 people on its aquatics staff, and Peterson-Brachle hopes to hire 10 to 15 more to accommodate for lifeguards who go on vacation or need a break over the summer, she said.

Working as a lifeguard is an ideal summer job that teaches skills that last a lifetime, Showalter said.

“It's a very important leadership role,” he said. “Every one of us is put to the test, and every one of us shows leadership skills to be able to do that.”

Contact the writer:


Area pool openings



Open Tuesday through Aug. 9

Dowding Pool, 1400 Washington St.

Jerry Gilbert Pool, 29th Avenue and Jackson Street

Sorensen Pool, 10th and Sidney Streets

Sun Valley Pool (in Aspen Park), 53rd and Arrow Rock Road

Cascio Pool, 1500 Lawrence Lane

Council Bluffs

Water parks open Saturday through the week of Aug. 20

Katelman Water Park, 1230 16th Ave.

Pirate Cove Water Park, 915 N. 21st St.


Gretna Municipal Pool, 300 Angus St.: Open through Aug. 11

La Vista

La Vista Municipal Pool, 7529 S. 85th St.: Open Saturday through Labor Day


Traditional pools unless otherwise noted

Camelot Pool, 9270 Cady Ave.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Cryer Pool, 11783 Cryer Ave.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Deer Ridge Leisure Pool, 585 S. 126th St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Elkhorn Pool, 3200 N. 207th Plaza: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Elmwood Leisure Pool, 606 S. Happy Hollow Blvd.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Gallagher Leisure Pool, 2936 N. 52nd St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Hanscom Leisure Pool, 3110 Ed Creighton Blvd.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Hitchcock Park Pool, 5025 S. 45th St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Karen Pool, 6288 H St.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Lee Valley Pool, 10605 Charles St.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Miller Water Park, 6275 N. 30th St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Oak Heights Leisure Pool, 10205 U St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Roanoke Pool, 4747 N. 113th St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Spring Lake Pool, 4020 Hoctor Blvd.: Open June 8 through Aug. 4

Zorinsky Aquatic Center, 3808 S. 156th St.: Open June 1 through Aug. 11

Spraygrounds, also called splash pads

All open Memorial Day through Labor Day, unless otherwise noted

Fontenelle Park, 4405 Fontenelle Blvd.

Kountze, 1920 Pinkney St.

Orchard Park, North 66th Street and Hartman Avenue

Upland, 3104 Jefferson St.

Westwood Heights, 12334 Seldin Drive

Morton Park, South 42nd and V Streets: Will open in mid-July

Waterjet fountain at Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza: Open the first week of June through mid-September


Papio Bay Aquatic Park, 815 E. Halleck St.: Open Saturday through Labor Day

Schwer Park Splash Pad, 800 West Centennial Road: Open Memorial Day through Labor Day

Surrounding area


Blair Swimming Pool, 1601 Butler St.: Open Tuesday through Aug. 11


Fremont Splash Station, a full aquatic park at 3809 E. Fremont Drive: Open May 30 through Aug. 10

Ronin Swimming Pool, 1703 N. Somers Ave.: Open May 30 through Aug. 10

Splash pads: Open Friday through Labor Day

Memorial Park, at North Lincoln and East Military Avenues

Miller Park on South M Street at West Jackson Street

Ronin Park, 1703 N. Somers Ave.

Missouri Valley, Iowa

Missouri Valley Aquatics Center, 700 W. Huron St.: Open Sunday through mid-August

Plattsmouth, Neb.

Twin Rivers Water Park 414 S. 18th St.: Open Saturday through mid-August

Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.,

Swimming pool: Open Saturday through Labor Day weekend, with limited hours starting in mid-August

Mahoney State Park, Ashland, Neb.

Family Aquatic Center: Open Saturday through Labor Day weekend, with limited hours starting in mid-August

Contact the writer: Robby Korth    |   402-444-1169    |  

Robby is a a general assignment intern at the Omaha World-Herald and a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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