Planning for an event as large as a 5-day 4th of July weekend is quite a thing. We check equipment for the guards, Community Emergency Response (CERT) and the park security programs, and make sure the Survivor Support Network is ready to go. We make sure we schedule everyone including additional coverage for the towers, a boat in the water, additional patrols at the parks for lost children and other issues.
But there are some less tangible preparations that have to be made well in advance that have relate to team cohesion and initiative. With 32 miles of beach to cover, 70 miles of waterfront that we may respond to, night calls, and whatever craziness gets thrown at us, we have to be able to respond to multiple events simultaneously and all the parts have to be able to work autonomously or fold into small groups made up of various people and response groups that work a problem together.
For a couple of years, we’ve been working on these areas, and have an internal program that is peer led. So, lifeguards work with lifeguards to make sure all the elements are in place for how to deal with stress, a variety of people and situations, and to work as a cohesive unit. Team cohesion, leadership, and physical and emotional resilience are essential ingredients for making it all come together.
We have an amazing team of peer leaders that run workshops once a week and we have small modules that are included in our daily training as well. It’s really starting to pay off and has permeated throughout our organization. Bill Bower is one of our peer leaders. He described an exercise in the following communication to the staff:
“I wanted to share with everyone what went on in our Saturday workout. I see it as a major step forward for our class. When we arrived at headquarters, we were told there was no workout, to pick up her bags, and head to tower 17. What happened next was a textbook example of what we’re trying to teach. Captain Pryor gathered everyone around and explained that the majority of guards were not swimming the jetty correctly. He demonstrated complete ownership of the situation, acknowledging that if most people were doing it wrong then they probably hadn’t been correctly instructed on how to do it. This is exactly what we’re trying to teach the guards to do with beach patrons. He explained how Beach Patrol wanted them to do it and then the all-important reason why they should do it. This was something most of them had never heard before. He then took the group in the water and showed them exactly what needed to be done and led them through it. I think this interaction really hit home with them showing how a true leader uses extreme ownership to motivate and lead. It was one of the best examples of leadership I’ve ever seen, and I plan to reference it in our future discussions.”