Two words sure to nudge the adrenaline: Unannounced audit.

Multiply that by five and you’re walking in the aqua socks of a Fox Valley Park District lifeguard – all of whom are certified by Jeff Ellis & Associates, Inc., an international aquatic safety and risk management consulting firm dedicated to the prevention and elimination of drowning.

Five times a year, Ellis sends “undercover” associates to the FVPD’s Vaughan Athletic Center, which employs around 75 lifeguards on a rotating basis. These unannounced, two-day processes recently resulted in the FVPD’s indoor aquatics staff receiving Ellis’ prestigious “2019 Silver International Aquatic Safety Award” for “consistently exceeding” the firm’s criteria for aquatic safety certification.

Day one of an audit includes undercover video surveillance of individual lifeguards to accurately evaluate the guards’ professional diligence, attentiveness and overall quality.

“Auditors pay close attention to how the guards are scanning, how they’re roving the area they’re protecting and handling anything that might happen while they’re there,” says Dan Chambers, the FVPD’s aquatics program manager. “We train our guards to be prepared for something to actually happen, so if they’re getting filmed, getting audited, they should maintain that same mindset. We want them to treat it as just another day of work, as part of the job.”

On day two of an audit, guards are tested on basic life-support skills, such as CPR or the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to help someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, along with simulated emergencies that measure the effectiveness of the facility’s established Emergency Action Plans.

In a congratulatory letter to Chambers and his staff, Richard A. Carroll, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Ellis, wrote that swimmers at the Vaughan Center “are consistently being afforded the highest degree of swimmer protection currently available for the aquatic industry.”

This latest recognition comes on the heels of FVPD lifeguard Ben Summers’ “International Golden Guard Safety Award” and the collective aquatics staff’s “Gold International Aquatic Safety Award,” both awarded by Ellis in 2019.

Says Chambers: “We’re in a good place.”