Pool patrol

Ian Myles, lifeguard and pool manager

photo by jonathan mendick

This summer, the city of Sacramento is opening 16 pools, including play, wading and full-size pools (www.tinyurl.com/sacpools has the full list). If you've never been to a public pool, here's the scene: Everything smells like sunscreen, kids scream and splash each other in play pools, and lifeguards gaze upon the whole area with a laserlike focus. Ian Myles started out as a junior lifeguard in the summer of 2009, and he's returned to the job every summer, making his way up the ranks to become senior lifeguard and assistant manager at various pools. This year, he's pool manager at the Pannell Meadowview Recreational Pool (2450 Meadowview Road). He told SN&R about his experience as a lifeguard over the past five summers.

Is it safe to pee in the pools?

It's safe [because of] how the chemicals work, and [the filters] in the pump room. There's enough chlorine and there's enough acid that's regulating the pools to really keep the water clean. Our maintenance personnel, they're in every day to make sure the pool is ready and safe to open. [They] ensure that the chlorine is high and the acidity is high enough, so that when kids pee in the pool, it's fine. It happens all the time.

Does urine change the water color?

That's one of those pool things that you hear about and you see in movies. We don't have the blue chemical that turns the water blue when kids pee. That's a funny joke, but we don't have that. [At] my pool specifically, they have these four really big massive filters that circulate the water continuously.

How big is your pool?

It's big enough to hold 538 people.


We have a slide out there that just got touched up and hasn't been open for four to five years. So it's going to be a big summer having that open again. We're expecting to have capacity … if not sometime next week, when it starts to get hotter. Last summer when I worked there, we hit capacity on several occasions. So, it's a pretty large facility. In fact, it's the largest city pool that we have.

What was lifeguard training like?

I was a good swimmer, but the [Sacramento Lifeguard] Academy forced me to be a better swimmer. The swim test I didn't have a problem with, except for treading [water with] a brick. We had a brick we had to tread with … [and] I didn't pass the swim test because of that brick. … So I definitely made a point that I was going to come back and do the test again. And I did, and I passed. But every successive year, we retest.

Describe the correct technique to tread water with a brick.

[You're supposed to use] an eggbeater kick, and I used to flutter kick. And that would just keep me straight up and down, and that would just make me sink. You have to hold the brick and keep the brick halfway out of the water line for a whole minute. You hold it right up and down, and it gives you more leeway. It was always a bunch of fun, and that was something I was always look forward to every summer, passing that brick test.

Have you ever had to save someone’s life?

Yes, I've had to jump in one time. I was working preseason, and I had a kid that thought he could jump off the diving board and go in, and he wasn't very comfortable. So by the time he gets in, he starts the signs of actively drowning, so I had to jump in and get him.

Geez, scary.

That was an easy rescue, I'd say. At that point and all the points previous, you just have that feeling: You get a response, you see something, and it's just that fact of getting in and getting the person out. It's a great feeling. All the training pays off, and you're not too nervous to do your job. So I jumped in and got him, and there were no problems there.

After that, I had an incident where I was managing, and we had a girl who was allergic to [wasps] at the pool, and she got stung several times. So, at that point, you're incident commander: You're in command of the situation, and you have to make sure that the pool is cleared and the guards know how to respond to the patron who is hurt. And we did all of that. The catch was that she didn't have an EpiPen with her, so that made our job a lot more difficult.

She was outside [of the pool facility] and there was a wasp nest, and they got her pretty good. So her friends came in and told us. We go out there, and sure enough, she was going into shock, and we [gave her] oxygen. And at that point, a nurse happened to be there at the facility, and that kind of helped calm her down, which was great for us. We just kind of waited until paramedics came, and she was fine. She came back to swim a few days after that. I said, “Hey, are you doing all right?” And she said, “Yeah, I'm good.” So all is well. That was the most stressful situation I've had. Other than that, I've been very fortunate to have safe summers with the city.