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Lifeguard passes on decades of skill

Michael Connelly and Janis Spilker, both certified instructors, help run the class.

"It's a community course even though it's in the school," Cahill said.

A swimming test will be given at the Shaker Pool on the first night. The swimming requirements are a "550-yard, untimed swim, using the crawl and breast strokes" and the swimmer must recover a 10-pound object from 7- to 9- feet of water.

"The toughest part of the course is getting into it," Cahill quipped.

He spoke about the importance of water safety and how some accidents can be prevented before they occur. Cahill said preventive life-guarding is just as important as daring rescues, and some lifeguards can go decades without ever making a rescue " and that is to their credit.

"They can see the trouble coming," Cahill said. "Lifeguarding is not like the show 'Baywatch.' You got to keep your skills up and be in physical condition."

When Cahill began his tenure as a life-guard instructor he said it was different from some of the techniques taught now.

"CPR is a newcomer on the block," he said.

It was taught and practiced for the first time in the 1960s, some 20 years after he became certified. Cahill said current practices involve teaching CPR in addition to the rules and regulation of water safety as well as surveillance skills.

Because of classes like the one Cahill is running, and strict rules regarding water safety in New York, the state has the lowest per capita drowning deaths, he said.

According to the New York State Department of Health there have been 77 deaths in 6,417 facilities, an annual rate of 0.57 at public swimming pools, since 1987. There have been 82 incidents at an annual rate of 2.42 at beaches where swimming is permitted.

In order to enroll in the course, one must be 15 years old by the end of the program.

"The course requires study assignments outside of class hours. The program is being conducted by Volunteers at the Shaker High School Pool, it is open to the general public, including college students and others residing in the area," according to the Red Cross.

The Lifeguard Certification is valid for three years, and the CPR certificate is valid for one. For information or to enroll, call the Health and Safety Department at the American Red Cross in Albany, at 458- 8111, ext. 5134.

The office hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

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