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Old Jul 6, 2012, 10:43 AM   #1
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Lifeguard fired for doing his job

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MIAMI — A day at the beach usually comes with the expectation that if someone is drowning, a lifeguard will swing into action and come to the rescue.

The reason was that as Mr. Lopez raced down the beach about a quarter-mile to comply with the big rule — rescuing a swimmer — he failed to follow a small rule. He breached protocol by running to an area outside his beach zone without waiting for his supervisor to arrive to cover his station, posing a potential liability problem.

The firing, which took place Monday, set off a furor on social media. The private company that runs the lifeguard operation in Hallandale Beach — an unusual arrangement that does not exist in most Florida cities — was pilloried for letting Mr. Lopez go for basically doing his job. On Thursday, the company, Jeff Ellis Management, offered him his job back.

But Mr. Lopez, soured a bit by the experience, said he did not want it now.

“Someone was in danger,” explained Mr. Lopez, 21, who lives in Davie, in Broward County, and started his lifeguard job four months ago. “I wasn’t going to choose my job over someone in danger. My job is to help people in distress. It was a moronic rule in my opinion that they set up. I understand the liability issues, but. ...”

Mr. Lopez said he was aware of the rule before he set off running but chose to disregard it, fearing that the person would drown in the few minutes that he waited for his supervisor to show up.

As it turned out, the flailing swimmer was being rescued by two beachgoers who pulled him out of the water on a boogie board. Mr. Lopez said that he waded into ankle-deep water and helped carry the man off the board. Then he turned the man on his side.

“He was conscious and breathing but was coughing up water and foam,” added Mr. Lopez, who said a nurse jumped in to help. “He looked pale and disoriented.”

Soon after, emergency medical technicians arrived and took the man to a hospital. Mr. Lopez was told to file his report on the incident. After he did so, he was fired by his supervisor, he said.

Three lifeguards quit in solidarity after the firing, including his younger brother, Mr. Lopez said. The next day two others were fired, he added.

“They had asked them if they would do the same thing I did, and they said they would,” Mr. Lopez said.

Jeff Ellis, the owner of the company that patrols that stretch of Hallandale Beach, said that all those lifeguards would be reinstated if they chose to come back.

The change of heart, Mr. Ellis said, came after his preliminary investigation concluded that no other swimmers were put at risk after Mr. Lopez left his station. A fellow lifeguard who was down the beach began to supervise Mr. Lopez’s portion of beach.

Mr. Ellis said that his contract with the city of Hallandale Beach provides that four lifeguards in three stands watch over a length of beach about the size of two football fields. The rest of the beach is designated as unprotected.

The lifeguards are allowed to rescue people outside those boundaries so long as they can see the distressed swimmer. Otherwise, they are supposed to call the manager. Usually, 911 would be called to respond in those cases.

If someone leaves a station unattended, Mr. Ellis said, “we are then compromising the safety of swimmers in our zone.”

Privatizing lifeguard duties is unusual in Florida. Hallandale Beach contracted out the job to his company in 2003 to save money, Mr. Ellis said. His contract expires in October; he said he had not decided whether to bid again.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/us...aving-job.html
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 10:48 AM   #2
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The reason was that as Mr. Lopez raced down the beach about a quarter-mile to comply with the big rule — rescuing a swimmer — he failed to follow a small rule. He breached protocol by running to an area outside his beach zone without waiting for his supervisor to arrive to cover his station, posing a potential liability problem.
Sorry, that's not a "small rule." If someone drowns in his designated area because he's off in an area outside where he's supposed to be working, that's a HUGE problem.

Kudos to the guy for rescuing someone, but I can understand his employer's position here.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 10:53 AM   #3
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Sorry, that's not a "small rule." If someone drowns in his designated area because he's off in an area outside where he's supposed to be working, that's a HUGE problem.

Kudos to the guy for rescuing someone, but I can understand his employer's position here.
The fact that they privatized lifeguards is stupid to begin with. A lifeguard's job should be save a person first ask questions later. Had that person died because the lifeguard stayed in his "area" what would the consequences have been.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 10:57 AM   #4
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Saw this yesterday, looks like the guy did his job above and beyond to me.

What are the chances of someone drowning in your zone while you're saving someone in the next zone?


The chances of 2 separate drownings at the same time so close together is probably extremely low. I think it was a risk worth taking and he did a good job.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 12:23 PM   #5
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Saw this yesterday, looks like the guy did his job above and beyond to me.

What are the chances of someone drowning in your zone while you're saving someone in the next zone?


The chances of 2 separate drownings at the same time so close together is probably extremely low. I think it was a risk worth taking and he did a good job.
I agree. The worst case scenario is that someone still drowns ...it's just a case of on which beach. The best case scenario is that nobody drowns.. as was the case here. Kudos to the lifeguard.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 12:49 PM   #6
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Kudos to the guy for rescuing someone, but I can understand his employer's position here.
Sorry, but he only helped get him out of the water, after 2 other guys had brought him close to shore on a boogie board.

Then a nurse took over until paramedics got there.

After the fact, his decision doesn't look so good.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 12:57 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ericrwalker View Post
Saw this yesterday, looks like the guy did his job above and beyond to me.

What are the chances of someone drowning in your zone while you're saving someone in the next zone?


The chances of 2 separate drownings at the same time so close together is probably extremely low. I think it was a risk worth taking and he did a good job.
Here is something to think about. If he did nothing and let the guy drown they more than likely would of fired him for not going to help. He would of been made a scapgoat for company policy.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 12:59 PM   #8
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Here is something to think about. If he did nothing and let the guy drown they more than likely would of fired him for not going to help. He would of been made a scapgoat for company policy.
Yup, agreed.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 03:17 PM   #9
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The fact that they privatized lifeguards is stupid to begin with. A lifeguard's job should be save a person first ask questions later. Had that person died because the lifeguard stayed in his "area" what would the consequences have been.
You don't understand lifeguarding; which is, unfortunately, all too common. Amongst lifeguards, even.

I can speak as someone who made a career of not only lifeguarding, but also teaching swimming and teaching, examining, and certifying people in lifeguarding, boating, use of AED, use of respiratory support, and first aid. Aquatics was my both my life and my passion.

That being said there are, of course, different standards in different jurisdictions but there are many common threads, one being that a lifeguard never leaves their zone unattended. Never. One's primary responsibility is to the people in one's zone--be they bathers, spectators, people walking by, whatever. A lifeguard's secondary responsibility is to cover another guard's zone if needed. The article does state that another guard did cover Mr Lopez' zone, and if that cover was called for and a proper confirmation received before Mr Lopez acted then the only thing he did wrong was not following an administrative rule, namely he didn't wait for a supervisor.

If, however, he left his zone unattended--even for a second--then he should face disciplinary action. I wouldn't go so far as termination, but, were he one of my employees, he would at least get a lecture and possibly some remedial work. (And, FWIW, if one of my candidates did the same thing they would be on track to fail the course. A lifeguard never leaves his zone unattended.)

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What are the chances of someone drowning in your zone while you're saving someone in the next zone?

The chances of 2 separate drownings at the same time so close together is probably extremely low. I think it was a risk worth taking and he did a good job.
"Drowning" means a fatality, so the odds are usually low that this will happen in two zones simultaneously. However, what are the odds that someone could have a near-drowning, become a distressed swimmer, become an injured swimmer, get heat stroke, have a seizure, have a heart attack, or any of the other situations that can also become fatal? Those are very good odds at a public beach on a hot summer's day.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 04:03 PM   #10
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You don't understand lifeguarding; which is, unfortunately, all too common. Amongst lifeguards, even.

I can speak as someone who made a career of not only lifeguarding, but also teaching swimming and teaching, examining, and certifying people in lifeguarding, boating, use of AED, use of respiratory support, and first aid. Aquatics was my both my life and my passion.

That being said there are, of course, different standards in different jurisdictions but there are many common threads, one being that a lifeguard never leaves their zone unattended. Never. One's primary responsibility is to the people in one's zone--be they bathers, spectators, people walking by, whatever. A lifeguard's secondary responsibility is to cover another guard's zone if needed. The article does state that another guard did cover Mr Lopez' zone, and if that cover was called for and a proper confirmation received before Mr Lopez acted then the only thing he did wrong was not following an administrative rule, namely he didn't wait for a supervisor.

If, however, he left his zone unattended--even for a second--then he should face disciplinary action. I wouldn't go so far as termination, but, were he one of my employees, he would at least get a lecture and possibly some remedial work. (And, FWIW, if one of my candidates did the same thing they would be on track to fail the course. A lifeguard never leaves his zone unattended.)



"Drowning" means a fatality, so the odds are usually low that this will happen in two zones simultaneously. However, what are the odds that someone could have a near-drowning, become a distressed swimmer, become an injured swimmer, get heat stroke, have a seizure, have a heart attack, or any of the other situations that can also become fatal? Those are very good odds at a public beach on a hot summer's day.
I disagree with you completely. If someone is in distress, screw zones. Rescue the person and give them a second chance at life.

How can anyone argue against that? You'd be highly upset if your child died because a lifeguard stayed in his zone when he could have helped.

As others said, the chances of someone having trouble in the lifeguards zone at the exact same time is insanely slim. It sounds like a little common sense needs injected into the lifeguarding community.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 04:25 PM   #11
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Sorry, but he only helped get him out of the water, after 2 other guys had brought him close to shore on a boogie board.

Then a nurse took over until paramedics got there.

After the fact, his decision doesn't look so good.

A mere coincidence. He had no idea that 2 other guys would reach him first.



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Yup, agreed.
Me too.


"Well.....he drowned, but at least you stayed in your own zone." *high five*
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 04:36 PM   #12
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I disagree with you completely. If someone is in distress, screw zones. Rescue the person and give them a second chance at life.

How can anyone argue against that? You'd be highly upset if your child died because a lifeguard stayed in his zone when he could have helped.
I'd be even more upset if my child died because a lifeguard was not doing her job, that is, if she left her zone.

It's easy to argue against what you (and others) suggest. A lifeguard should never leave his zone. In fact, in many (I'd even go so far as to say most) jurisdictions in the Western world a lifeguard can be charged criminally if someone gets hurt and the lifeguard fails to act; if the lifeguard fails to act because he was not there to act he would probably face prison if someone died.

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As others said, the chances of someone having trouble in the lifeguards zone at the exact same time is insanely slim.
And as I said--as a person who has actually been a certified lifeguard working full time, year round, is certified to train, examine, and certify new lifeguards, has held and taught all four of Canada's NLS options (Pool, Water park, Surf, Waterfront), has competed in national and Commonwealth lifeguard competitions, and has contributed to lifeguarding texts--the chances of simultaneously having someone else in trouble on a public beach are quite high, especially on a hot summer's day.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 04:46 PM   #13
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A mere coincidence. He had no idea that 2 other guys would reach him first.
I knew I would catch grief for my statement, and I still stand by it.

Hind-sight is rarely wrong, which is why I phrased it the way I did.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 05:10 PM   #14
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It's easy to argue against what you (and others) suggest. A lifeguard should never leave his zone. In fact, in many (I'd even go so far as to say most) jurisdictions in the Western world a lifeguard can be charged criminally if someone gets hurt and the lifeguard fails to act; if the lifeguard fails to act because he was not there to act he would probably face prison if someone died.
You just contradicted yourself. First you say a lifeguard should do nothing than said they could be arrested for doing nothing.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 05:45 PM   #15
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You just contradicted yourself. First you say a lifeguard should do nothing than said they could be arrested for doing nothing.
He didn't contradict himself.

If someone drowns in an area the lifeguard was not hired to protect, and indeed was forbidden from protecting, he has a very defensible legal position against a lawsuit from the deceased's surviving family.

If someone drowns in an area the lifeguard was hired to protect but the lifeguard was not there protecting it, it's dereliction of duty and very firm grounds for a lawsuit.

Again, I understand that he saved someone's life, and congratulations to him and a pat on the back and everything - but he left his employer exposed to a potential lawsuit. From the employer's perspective, that's huge.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 05:46 PM   #16
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You just contradicted yourself.

First you say a lifeguard should do nothing than said they could be arrested for doing nothing.
In the States, it's the exact same dilemma faced by health-care professionals, when they encounter an accident scene.

If they help, and the injured dies, they can be sued for millions.

If they don't, they are, at the very least, dragged through the media as heartless beasts.

Good luck in finding a happy medium in your most excellent culture.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 05:54 PM   #17
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In the States, it's the exact same dilemma faced by health-care professionals, when they encounter an accident scene.

If they help, and the injured dies, they can be sued for millions.

If they don't, they are, at the very least, dragged through the media as heartless beasts.

Good luck in finding a happy medium in your most excellent culture.
I thought most states have Good Samaritan laws to prevent exactly this?
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 06:03 PM   #18
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I thought most states have Good Samaritan laws to prevent exactly this?
I surely hope so, but I'm not up on States' legislation on the matter.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 06:21 PM   #19
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I'd be even more upset if my child died because a lifeguard was not doing her job, that is, if she left her zone.

It's easy to argue against what you (and others) suggest. A lifeguard should never leave his zone. In fact, in many (I'd even go so far as to say most) jurisdictions in the Western world a lifeguard can be charged criminally if someone gets hurt and the lifeguard fails to act; if the lifeguard fails to act because he was not there to act he would probably face prison if someone died.



And as I said--as a person who has actually been a certified lifeguard working full time, year round, is certified to train, examine, and certify new lifeguards, has held and taught all four of Canada's NLS options (Pool, Water park, Surf, Waterfront), has competed in national and Commonwealth lifeguard competitions, and has contributed to lifeguarding texts--the chances of simultaneously having someone else in trouble on a public beach are quite high, especially on a hot summer's day.
You can twist it how you want but morally you're wrong, the life guard was right and kudos to him for ignoring a silly rule and helping someone in need.

Again, if the person in trouble was your kid I highly doubt you'd get mad that he "left his zone".
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 06:46 PM   #20
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I'd be even more upset if my child died because a lifeguard was not doing her job, that is, if she left her zone.

It's easy to argue against what you (and others) suggest. A lifeguard should never leave his zone. In fact, in many (I'd even go so far as to say most) jurisdictions in the Western world a lifeguard can be charged criminally if someone gets hurt and the lifeguard fails to act; if the lifeguard fails to act because he was not there to act he would probably face prison if someone died.



And as I said--as a person who has actually been a certified lifeguard working full time, year round, is certified to train, examine, and certify new lifeguards, has held and taught all four of Canada's NLS options (Pool, Water park, Surf, Waterfront), has competed in national and Commonwealth lifeguard competitions, and has contributed to lifeguarding texts--the chances of simultaneously having someone else in trouble on a public beach are quite high, especially on a hot summer's day.
You're almost certainly correct about what is considered "proper" conduct for a lifeguard, as it's your profession, not mine.


That does not mean I can't find the reasoning slightly reprehensible. Laws and lawsuits usually do not have anything to do with morals and humanity. That wasn't meant to be a criticism of you, or lifeguards as people.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 06:55 PM   #21
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i understand the need to make sure that if a lifeguard is leaving their zone that it needs to be covered. the article states that another lifeguard had indeed covered his zone, although it is vague on specifics, and he helped someone in distress out. However, the company's policy was wrong imo. it seems idiotic to have to wait for a supervisor who could be anywhere in the vicinity before proceeding. hire more lifeguards to patrol then for just this sort of instance.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 07:15 PM   #22
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And what of the other "zone", where the emergency occurred?

Has there been a resolution of this question?
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 07:20 PM   #23
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i understand the need to make sure that if a lifeguard is leaving their zone that it needs to be covered. the article states that another lifeguard had indeed covered his zone, although it is vague on specifics, and he helped someone in distress out. However, the company's policy was wrong imo. it seems idiotic to have to wait for a supervisor who could be anywhere in the vicinity before proceeding. hire more lifeguards to patrol then for just this sort of instance.
He called on his radio for backup since he was leaving his chair. That's SOP, leave the chair for any reason, call for backup. Backup was either on its way or he waited for them to get there before he left, I forgot exactly which. (This from an interview I saw with him last night)

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And what of the other "zone", where the emergency occurred?

Has there been a resolution of this question?
What's the question? Why wasn't it covered or something else? If its: why wasn't it covered: it was part of the "unprotected" area of the beach. You know, the swim at your own risk part. Most beaches I've been to have them. too expensive I guess to cover the whole shore.
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Old Jul 6, 2012, 07:26 PM   #24
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What's the question? Why wasn't it covered or something else? If its: why wasn't it covered: it was part of the "unprotected" area of the beach. You know, the swim at your own risk part. Most beaches I've been to have them. too expensive I guess to cover the whole shore.
Fair enough. Then let the users beware.

All the more reason for the lad to hold his post.

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Old Jul 6, 2012, 07:29 PM   #25
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Fair enough. Then let the users beware.

All the more reason for the lad to hold his post.

<Puts on hard-hat.>
The truth is, both parties acted correctly. The lifeguard did the proper, moral thing: tried to help a fellow human being. But the company has rules that has to be followed or more people can get hurt. They had to fire him. Funny thing is he was much more accepting of this then people in this thread.
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