The Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service (NSLS) has been keeping Nova Scotia's provincial beaches safe since 1973. The Beach Supervision Program was the result of a 1972 study which pointed out the need to reduce the high number of drownings and related incidents at beaches in Nova Scotia. A full-time coordinator was hired in 1975, and the Beach Supervision Program changed its name to the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service (NSLS). The NSLS is a joint project between the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness and the Lifesaving Society, Nova Scotia Branch. The provincial government funds and promotes the program while the Lifesaving Society manages the day-to-day operations of the program. Paul D'Eon is the the current NSLS Director.
Nova Scotia is divided into regional areas. Each area has a Regional Area Supervisor who helps train staff, maintains equipment and ensures quality control on each beach. Beach Captains (senior lifeguards) are in charge of the daily operations of the beach, ensure operational policies and procedures are followed, set up work and break schedules and ensures staff inservice training is complete. The number of lifeguards required for each beach depends on the size of the supervised area and the number of people who visit the beach. In total, NSLS supervises 16 provincial park beaches in Nova Scotia, supervises 6 other beach sites through municipal agreements, 1 beach through a federal agreement and provides consultation services to other municipal lifeguard agencies such as Richmond County Recreation, Kings County Recreation, Yarmouth Leisure Services, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and Antigonish County Recreation.
Potential lifeguards apply to the NSLS in early February. The lifeguarding season runs from the end of June to the end of August. Applicants must possess the National Lifeguard certification, a Standard First Aid course, and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) level C.
As part of the selection process, applicants must complete a timed 500 metre swim, a timed 3.2 kilometre run, and a timed standardized 50 metre Manikin Carry event (according to Lifesaving Society Standards). The Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service strives to staff its beaches with local lifeguards. If there is no qualified local staff available, the NSLS will hire staff from other areas and provide living accommodations.
Prior to opening day, NSLS guards attend an intensive four-day training camp. The camp focuses on fitness, team building and technical skill development. It is here where guards prepare for the National Lifeguard Waterfront / Surf Exam, which ensures the lifeguards are prepared for their role on the beaches. It is here, also, where guards meet each other, develop leadership skills, and have the opportunity to have their questions answered by experienced guards.
During the eight-week season, lifeguards are required to complete daily in-service tasks. These include practice rescue situations and physical training events. As well, staff is required to participate in beach community relation’s projects, which educate the public and promote the NSLS.
The Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service is also involved in a Lifeguard Exchange program with the Wollongong City Council Lifeguards in New South Wales, Australia. This program offers excellent learning opportunities to both organizations, as well as provides an exciting change of scenery and a new set of challenges.
The NSLS prides itself on its record of "no drownings" during supervised hours. Since the program was initiated in 1973, there hasn't been a single drowning casualty in an NSLS supervised area during supervised hours. During this time, the NSLS has supervised over 17.5 million people, performed 3888 documented rescues, employed 1104 different staff and conducted 1411 community projects.