The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Pool opens with new protocols, training


Diana Zimmerman

Tuesday's cooler weather may have contributed to lower attendance, but the Julia Butler Hansen Swimming Pool opened with a crowd on Monday. Check out the new schedule and fees online at the Town of Cathlamet website.

The Julia Butler Hansen Swimming Pool opened on Monday and with a new protocol and training in place, seasoned lifeguards are feeling even confident about teaching lessons and responding to emergencies.

Duncan Cruickshank, the staff's supervisor, traveled around the northwest to learn about the StarGuard training program and is now sharing it with them, according to lifeguard Rory Heywood. Cruickshank and the lifeguards met before the pool opened for training and certification, and training will be ongoing throughout the season with inservice and something the staff calls redcaps.

A doll named Timmy is used for redcaps, and Shane Souvenir, the lead lifeguard sets up scenarios. The redcaps happen each week, all summer long. While doing rounds, lifeguards might find the doll lying facedown in a pool of water in the locker room. They have to respond as if it were a real situation. Or Timmy might be placed in the pool, with Shane providing a description of his injuries. Lifeguards might respond immediately, but because it is a doll, they have time to evaluate the situation and decide the best way to move forward.

The new protocols affect everything, from how they switch guards at the stand, to keeping track of when they add sunscreen, or when to start rescue breath, which, by the way, is much sooner than they had been trained to do through the Red Cross.

"We're keeping up with the science of it and I think that's really cool," Heywood said.

It's all about safety. Everyone's safety.

"Some of the methods that we use are different," Bonnie Ellis said. "I think that the ones that we use now are more effective for rescuing people. I feel a lot more confident in my ability to be able to help people with the skills that we've learned."

The approach to swim lessons is different too.

"We have all sorts of safety measures we have to meet," Heywood said. "One of the first things students learn at the first level is that they have to ask before they get in the pool so that people are aware they are going to get in the water. They could fail their final test if they don't ask to get in the pool first."

Teaching kids to swim is a big priority for the lifeguards.

"Living in an area that has so much water, it's important for people who aren't the strongest swimmers to learn how to swim," Heywood said.

"I think that is one of the most important things," Ellis echoed. "I think every kid should know how to swim or what to do in an emergency. I've been teaching lessons for five years and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing them improved. I like the idea that we are going to have a program that will help them do even better."

Souvenir is trying to figure out how to get more kids to the pool.

"Our goal this year is to increase attendance and make it more fun for the kids," Souvenir said. "We're trying out new ideas like having a midnight swim or a movie event once or twice a month. Something to attract people."

"It's a great place for kids to go," Ellis said. "It's such a fundamental part of this community. I'd prefer kids swim here because it's safer, but if they do swim in the river, they should be able to swim or know how to use a life jacket."

Lessons start on Monday, June 26. Information about hours, fees and lessons can be found on the Town of Cathlamet website.


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