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Los Angeles County Lifeguards

Los Angeles County Lifeguards
Watch the water, stay in shape, do the right thing
Agency Overview
Established 1914
Employees 782 lifeguards [1]
Staffing Combination (Recurrent & Career)
Facilities & Equipment
Stations 4 Section Headquarters, 15 Substations, 158 Towers
Rescues 10,000+
Rescue Boats 10

Los Angeles County Lifeguards is a division of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The lifeguard operations safeguard 31 miles (50 km) of beach and 72 miles (116 km) of coastline, from San Pedro in the south, to Malibu in the north. The Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service served as the model for the hit television series Baywatch which was created by part-time lifeguard Gregory Bonan.

Lifeguards also provide paramedic and rescue boat services to Catalina Island, with operations out of Avalon and the Isthmus. Other daily rescue boat services operate out of Los Angeles Harbor(Baywatch Cabrillo), King Harbor(Baywatch Redondo), Marina Del Rey(Baywatch Del Rey and Baywatch Santa Monica), and Malibu Pier(Baywatch Malibu).

The Los Angeles County Lifeguard service is the largest professional lifeguard service in the world. Entering the year 2005, the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service employs 132 year-round lifeguards (chiefs, captains and ocean lifeguard specialists) and over 650 seasonal lifeguards (recurrents). Operating out of four Sectional Headquarters, located in Hermosa, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey and Zuma beach. Each of these headquarters staffs a 24-hour EMT-D response unit, and are part of the 911 system.

In addition to providing for beach safety and emergency medical services, LA County Lifeguards have specialized training for Baywatch rescue boat operations, underwater rescue and recovery, swift water rescue, cliff rescue, marine mammal rescue and marine firefighting.


  • Vehicles employed 1
  • Lifeguard uniforms 2
  • Badges and patches 3
    • Shoulder patches 3.1
  • Rescue equipment 4
    • Rescue cans 4.1
    • Rescue tubes 4.2
    • Boat tows 4.3
    • Swim fins 4.4
    • Rescue boards 4.5
  • Lifeguard vehicles 5
  • Lifeguard Centennial 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Vehicles employed

LA County Lifeguards Nissan Frontier

Lifeguard uniforms

The following categories of lifeguard clothing in sufficient quantities to fully annually outfit 760 male lifeguards and 136 female lifeguards, which numbers can change each agreement year based upon the workforce composition then in employment, as order by county:

  • Short-sleeve and long-sleeve polo shirts;
  • Volley swim trunks;
  • Board shorts;
  • One-piece and two-piece women's swimsuits;
  • Micro-fleece with half-zipper;
  • Windbreaker pants;
  • Baseball caps, knit cap, and floppy hats
  • Lightweight windbreaker jackets;
  • Heavyweight jackets; and
  • Rashguards

Badges and patches

Most lifeguards are wearing a departmental badge shall consist of a shield, surmonted a bear, and shall be of silver-colored metal unless otherwise specified. The words "County of Los Angeles" shall appear on a ribbon at the atop of the badge just under the bear, followed by ribbons with the words "Fire Department" will appear just above the seal of the county. Then the title of the position of the person authorized to wear such official badge shall be inscribe on a ribbon placed just below the county's seal and the serial number of the badge shall appeared at the bottom of the badge below the title of the position. The words "Ocean Lifeguard Specialist", "Ocean Lifeguard", "Captain" and "Chief" may also appear on the face of badges issued to employees or retired employees authorized by the Fire Department and board of supervisors to carry such badges.

Shoulder patches

Los Angeles County lifeguards wear a patch on their left sleeve that reads "County of Los Angeles Fire Dept. Lifeguard". Lifeguards that are licensed as paramedics wear a smiliar patch that identifies them as such.

Rescue equipment

Burnside buoy [2][3]
Peterson tube[4]

Every lifeguard must possess certain physical skills in order to perform the duties of the job. In addition to these physical skills, lifeguards are provided with specialized equipment designed to assist the lifeguard in protecting lives.

EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard) With a history of striving for excellence with innovative and new safer cost effective ways to perform their mission, the Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division was the first entity in the country to experiment with a remotely operated motorized rescue buoy system now known as EMILY the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard which was funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The first experimental trials began in April 2010. The cutting edge effort performed with Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel formed the foundation for the EMILY system which has since been deployed in various locations around the country. This progressive work has drawn great attention and interest of news media and the respect of the public all around the country and internationally around the world.

Rescue cans

Rescue cans are floats made out of hard plastic, with handles molded into the sides and rear, and are named Burnside Cans after their creator. The rescue can is attached to a line and harness which is worn by the lifeguard. The rescue can is the basic tool of the ocean lifeguard. While it is always optimal to have one flotation device for each victim, if necessary, a rescue can is able to support up to three victims, depending on the condition of the victims and ocean conditions at the time of the rescue.

Rescue cans are used by lifeguards to rescue people in the water and also as a signaling device. During a rescue, you might see a lifeguard raising a can in the water. Raising it vertically means the lifeguard is signaling lifeguards onshore that he or she needs more manpower to assist with the rescue. Raising it to a horizontal position means that a rescue boat is required to assist with the rescue. You will also see lifeguards in Los Angeles County waving their rescue cans as they patrol up and down the beach. This is so that the lifeguards working on both sides of them can easily spot them in case backup is needed.

While working in a tower, a lifeguard will place the rescue can in the designated location, usually on a "can hook" located on the roof of the lifeguard tower. The absence of the rescue can from its rack or hook may be the only way a lifeguard in an adjacent tower will know the lifeguard assigned to a tower is not there.

Rescue tubes

Foam rubber rescue tubes, located in main stations and rescue units, are ideal for rescuing single or double victims. The tube can be placed under a victim or victims, and is particularly effective in large surf, for rescues near piers or jetties, or for unconscious victims. The tube, because of its soft exterior, is also ideal for use on the rescue boats, also known as Baywatch, or when using a rescue board. The rescue tube is placed under the victim. When used with an unconscious person, the lifeguard will secure the tube under the victim and use the cross chest method of swimming the person to shore.

Boat tows

A boat tow is a twelve-foot length of 14-inch-diameter (6.4 mm) polypropylene line with a snap hook attached to each end. Boat tow lines are used by lifeguards when assisting any water vessel that has approached the beach and is having difficulty staying offshore. One end of the boat tow is usually clipped onto the bow of the vessel while the other end is secured to a rescue can. Lifeguards can then start to tow the vessel by swimming it out and away from the beach and away from beach patrons.

Swim fins

Swim fins, worn either singularly or in pairs, are especially useful to the lifeguard in several situations, such as large surf or strong rip currents. Fins are also useful in long-distance or multiple victim situations.

Rescue boards

Rescue boards are kept at main stations and on each emergency vehicle, and can be used in conjunction with a rescue tube or can. Rescue boards are mainly used for long distance rescues and to assist with crowd control. Rescue boards are generally 12 feet in length with anywhere from 2 to 6 handles placed along the rails of the board.

Lifeguard vehicles

All Ford Escape Hybrid SUV's are currently assigned a sectional beach in Los Angeles County since deploying its new vehicle since 2008.

Lifeguard Centennial

In 2014, the Los Angeles County Lifeguards will celebrate its centennial anniversary of establishing the lifeguard service for the beaches of L.A. County.


  1. ^
  2. ^ United States Lifesaving Association - History
  3. ^
  4. ^

External links

  • Official website
  • Los Angeles County Fire Department
  • Watch the Water – a public safety program
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