HOT JOBS: This is the first in a series of stories about residents who work outdoors in the sun or indoors without air conditioners during the summer months.
Spending summers poolside is tough work but someone has to do it.
Katrina Lane, head lifeguard at Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, has been working as a lifeguard at the center for the past year but has been a lifeguard for seven years. The job, she said, isn’t exactly what people expect.
“It’s not as easy and mindless as people think,” Lane said, scanning a nearby pool. “There’s a lot to recognize. Drowning is not this active motion of screaming. It’s just someone trying to push their arms down quick enough to get some air in.”
Armed with the training and knowledge that drowning can take less than 30 seconds, guards are well equipped as they patrol pools and pool decks to keep everyone safe.
While they’re focused on keeping others from harm, they’re also cautious of their own health.
Overheating can cause a person to lose focus, become dizzy and in severe cases require medical attention. If lifeguards aren’t able to stay focused because they’re too hot, they aren’t able to keep swimmers safe.
To help offset the effects of the summer temperatures, guards take short breaks indoors every hour where they have chance to cool off, reapply sunscreen and rehydrate.
“SPF 50 is my best friend,” Lane said. “Every time we go inside everyone’s like ‘OK, reapply.’”
The guards also have to be cautious of heatstroke and heat exhaustion and recognize when it’s time for them to take a break.
Lane said she has only experienced heat exhaustion once before and doesn’t intend to do it again.
“After the first time, I was like this is enough, never again. It was back when I was like 16,” Lane said. “I literally got cold chills and I was like ‘It’s so hot, why am I cold?’ You’ll start to recognize it (in others). Their faces will go pale sometimes. They’ll feel cold. You can definitely see it.”
Keeping an eye on others isn’t limited to just pools.
Hall County Parks and Recreation Supervisor Janice Bryant works part time at the spray ground at Laurel Park off Cleveland Highway in Gainesville.
The spray ground features a number of water fountains children can play in and around.
Though not a lifeguard, Bryant is responsible for collecting admission and making sure children don’t wander away alone.
To get ready for her four-hour shift, Bryant sets up a chair near the entrance to the park under a large umbrella.
Beating the heat isn’t possible, Bryant said, smiling.
“You just sit and sweat,” Bryant said. “You have to bring a little cooler with water and stuff. We might run out there every once in a while and get wet, but mostly you just sit and sweat.”