Calling all retired lifeguards: Lifesaving Society’s Quebec branch needs your help

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Rachelle Doucet is back at a job she hasn’t done in years.

“Maintaining the beach is an amazing job. I love it,” he said, recounting his three-year experience at the city’s tennis and pool club.

“I didn’t work during the summer, so I’ll definitely be back there, doing a few hours here or there.”

The fact that Doucet is even considering returning part-time is great news for the Lifesaving Society in Quebec, but more like him is needed.

The organization issued a desperate plea for help, encouraging not only young people to get certified, but also for retired lifeguards to get back into the chair.

Doucet, who works as a guidance counselor for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, has time to go along but admits it’s a bit surprising to hear how understaffed the pool and swimming area are because “it’s so cool. It’s such a fun job.”‘

At the same time, he added, it made sense given the lack of certification being awarded during the pandemic when things like classes and aquatic centers were closed.

Quebec averages about 80 drownings a year, said Raynald Hawkins, general manager of the Quebec branch of the Lifesaving Society.

“One drowning is one too many because we know it can be prevented,” he said.

Raynald Hawkins, head of the Lifesaving Society in Quebec, is encouraging retired lifeguards to get back into the chair this summer. (Matt D’Amours/CBC)

Teaching children to swim also plays an important role in drowning prevention, but this pandemic has really brought lessons back significantly with many pools closed and class size restrictions in place.

In July 2020, Lifesaving Society Canada set 15 — down from 16 — the minimum age required for certification as a swimming instructor, rescue instructor, or lifeguard.

But that wasn’t enough to fill the staffing vacancies, so the organization turned to the likes of Doucet for help.

“Our recommendation to candidates who are ex-lifeguards is maybe you could take a CPR course or a first aid course to keep your skills up,” Hawkins said.

“And if you’re good at swimming, perfect, you can recertify a National Lifeguard or Bronze Cross four to five hours any time.”

For those who have lost their badge or certification over the years, the organization says there is no need to worry as all information is stored in its database.

Doucet said he would be open to teaching and beach guarding at a pond close to home. He said it was his job as a former coast guard to get involved again.

Former lifeguard Lisa Labelle feels the same way. He is thinking about getting recertified as a coast guard.

“It was great fun and important to see the kids experience the lake for the first time,” said Labelle. “We wouldn’t have been able to provide that if we didn’t have lifeguards at our camp in the summer.”

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