Water world of a top lifeguard
Lifeguarding is 90 per cent prevention and ten per cent intervention. Therefore knowledge, good judgement, alertness and fitness are all attributes lifeguards must possess to ensure there is no loss of life.
For acting chief lifeguard Fabian Larrier those are the skills he puts into play as he goes to his job every day.
“A lifeguard is not just someone who runs into the sea when someone is drowning and pulls them out of the water. Lifeguards watch the beach. It is teamwork; everyone has to work with each other and be vigilant,” Larrier said.
The acting chief said lifeguarding was about safe, enjoyable aquatics.
There are a number of things lifeguards look for while on the job, he said, such as how the current is moving and how strong it is.
He explained that at each tower there was a minimum of three lifeguards, two rovers and a tower guard, who was positioned in the tower where he had a panoramic view of the entire beach that was under their watch.
As senior lifeguard, Larrier is responsible for the southern zone, which encompasses beaches from the Crane to Batts Rock, and is in charge of all the lifeguards and the towers at beaches in the zone.
“The responsibility is large. It is a serious job. Not everybody is going to be as passionate and everybody has a different mentality. Even though I find myself still passionate at this time, some other lifeguards may not be as dedicated as they should be,” he said.
He warned that it was not a job that just anyone could do; they need to want to do it. He added that it was hard work, even the training, and being on the job was not a walk in the park; it is not that a lifeguard just sits on the beach and waits for something to happen.
Larrier passed out of the National Conservation Commission Lifeguard training programme in 1993 and was promoted to senior lifeguard two years later, being the youngest person, at 22, to reach senior level in the lifeguard service.
He said that in his almost 20 years on the job, he had had many unforgettable rescues.
“I do not have the precise number of rescues I have done, but there have been plenty.”
He said that there were some parts of the island where you would hardly see a rescue because of the low-level activity and the calmer conditions of the beach.
However, he identified Rockley as the beach where the most incidents of people needing some kind of intervention occurred because of the amount of human traffic the beach saw and the unpredictability of the surf.
He said that extra care and attention was needed when cruise ships were in port and during school holidays and the tourist season. That is the time he has to really do daily supervision of sites, moving to the various lifeguard towers to ensure everything is functioning properly and that each tower has the required minimum of three lifeguards.
Even though the job was sometimes an arduous one, Larrier said it was the people that he came into contact with on a daily basis and the team he worked with that made the job amazing.
Larrier also said that he got into the job because he lived a stone’s throw away from the beach at Foul Bay, St Philip, and he loved both the beach and talking to people.
“It kind of came naturally,” he said.
He took the 12-week initial training programme, which included standard first-aid, emergency cardiac care, CPR and health care provider courses.
He along with the other lifeguards in the service can respond to heart attacks, broken legs, epilepsy attacks and other minor medical complaints.
He also does continual training with the Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada and every two years has to be recertified with the Canadian Lifeguard Service to keep abreast of the newer techniques in lifeguarding.
He also has the National Lifeguard Service SURF certification as well as a certificate in park and beach management in a tourist destination from the University of the West Indies. Additionally, he won the Pride Of Workmanship Award from the Rotary Club of Barbados in 2003 and in 1994 he earned the Minister Of Tourism Award.
Larrier is also a strong proponent for everyone in Barbados learning how to swim and is in charge of keeping the Operation SOS programme up and running.
The programme was started four years ago, and Larrier said it offered free swimming lessons twice a week for eight weeks of the summer holiday.