FOH interview: Chinthaka Fernando
Lifeguards at beachfront properties have a herculean task on their hands as Chinthaka Fernando, recreation coordinator, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Fujairah explains
How long have you been in the hospitality sector, and was it an industry you always wanted to be part of?
It’s been almost nine years since I started working in the hotel industry and it’s become part of my life, I feel this is where I belong. I love working and interacting with people from different nationalities, backgrounds and cultures.
Could you tell us more about your role at the hotel?
As the head lifeguard, my prime role is to ensure a safe environment for our guests and colleagues who come to use the facilities at the pool and beach area. My other responsibilities include coordinating and conducting service trainings, first aid sessions, CPR, and carrying out all other water rescue training techniques.
Tell us a bit about the team of lifeguards you handle; how do you motivate them?
We schedule weekly lifeguard training sessions and conduct assessments of their weekly performance. Giving lifeguards the incentive of different trainings helps us keep them motivated.
Apart from that, enrolling them in the UAE National Lifeguard championship or other competitions of a similar nature boosts their interest to approach their routine activities with added vigour. Our role as lifeguards is crucial; it requires us to be attentive, proactive, assess the situation and react quickly and so we like to keep things light behind the scenes.
Explain how the role of a lifeguard is different from that of a pool attendant in a hotel?
Lifeguards are the front line of a hotel’s swimming pool and act as life-savers in the unfortunate event of people having a mishap at the pool, or even the beach for that matter. Contrary to popular notion, our job involves a bit more than that of a pool attendant’s. In fact a pool attendant’s role is a completely different one, and is complementary to that of a lifeguard’s.
To what extent have you managed to mitigate any accidents and incidents over the last couple of years at the hotel?
The hotel has a standard operating procedure (SOP) and emergency action pan (EAP) for the pool and beach operation. In this regard, it helps to mitigate accidents and incidents. It all starts with hiring the right candidate — although regular training sessions are very important, a well-trained lifeguard will be able to prevent incidents rather than being reactive. Another key tool is guests’ knowledge about their own safety. Guests these days are more informed and respectful towards the rules and regulations set by the management — such as new safety/precaution signage.
How can lifeguards across different hotels in the UAE improve their knowledge and abilities?
It is necessary for lifeguards to have weekly trainings in order for them to be prepared for whatever incidents or accidents that may occur and for the lifeguards to be physically and mentally ready. Competitions such as UAE lifeguard championships, intra-UAE hotels’ and resorts’ water safety activities, and drowning prevention week with the RLSS, helps keep lifeguards in this country well-updated and informed about new techniques and methods.
What are some of your achievements in your career?
Working with the property since 2008, I successfully managed to achieve the position of head-lifeguard and coordinator of the recreation department. I also received the award as First Aider of the Year at the LMAA in 2013.
5 tips for lifeguards to run a safe operation:
1. Good supervision of the area.
2. Structured work pattern.
3. Up-to-date knowledge of first aid and CPR.
4. Dedication and discipline while on duty.
5. Strong ethics of team work.