/ Thursday, October 17th, 2013

by Billy Latta

The Disney Lifeguards have a number of peculiar requirements to fulfill whenever they’re out and guarding the pools. You may have seen or will potentially notice a few of these after reading this post, but to mention one of them in particular, the lifeguards do this thing where they walk the perimeter of their pool zone, point at the water, and Lifeguard OKWwave their arm around. I like to tell Guests that ever since we acquired Lucasfilm last fall we’ve been given the right to use the force and move things wherever we want in the water.

As much as I’d love the above statement to be true, it’s not. We’re simply scanning the water and making sure everything is A-okay and nothing fishy is happening on top or below the surface. The Lifeguard scanning-in will check first and then announce that it is his/her water area to watch. Then the Lifeguard leaving will do a double check, let the new Guard on duty know everything is all clear, and move on.

That’s just one example. We do a lot of routine things and enforce quite a few rules in order to ensure the safety of everyone. That’s our number one priority—safety. Every Lifeguard is familiarized with Emergency Action Plans (EAP) and goes through a minimum of four hours of In-Service Training (IST) every month. We’re ready, ready, ready!

Hopefully though, we never actually have to respond to a real emergency; nevertheless, we’re fully equipped and we like to show off our Rescue and First Aid skill sets. That’s why the Walt Disney World Resort does something awesome for its Lifeguards and holds something called ISOC.

ISOC is Disney’s annual Lifeguard competition at Typhoon Lagoon. The acronym stands for In-Service Open Challenge. Each resort region (e.g. Saratoga Springs + Old Key West, Yacht & Beach + Boardwalk, Pop Century + Art of Animation, Grand Floridian + Polynesian, etc.), depending on size, puts together one or two teams of three of its strongest Lifeguards to participate in the competition. There are tryouts and many practices for months prior to the event.

Although I was not yet working when tryouts were held, I’ve had the privilege of helping my region’s team practice for the past several weeks. It’s exciting to run different scenarios and, even better, when Guests get to see the Lifeguards in action when we practice. We are glad to break any stereotypes of the lazy lifeguard here at Disney.

All the practicing winds down to Sunday, October 27th at 8:00am this year—ISCO day and the first day Typhoon Lagoon is closed for the season. Each team will report to Typhoon Lagoon and be put to the test, encountering a number of scenarios, with a panel of judges nearby to determine the best of the best. The competition is thrilling and usually lasts for several, five to six, hours. Cast Members, family, and friends are welcome to spectate and cheer on their team(s).

The “Ah-ha!” moment—there are so many surprising, lesser-known events that take place in Walt Disney World. Which ones might you know about that others may not?




Billy is a recent graduate of Malone University in Canton, OH. He participated in the Fall 2012 Disney College Program as a lifeguard at Disney’s Old Key West and Saratoga Springs resorts and has returned in reprising his previous role in his previous location for the Fall 2013 Disney College Program. Billy enjoys keeping in touch with family from up north, spending time with friends in the parks, running, traveling, listening to podcasts, and keeping up-to-date on the latest Disney and entertainment news.



1 thought on ““Billy Outside the Box” – The Disney Lifeguards”

  1. Tony E (BacksideOfWater) says:

    I heard from a You Tuber who was in the Disney College Program twice at Disneyland mention a Cast member Canoe Race on the Rivers Of America that sounded like a ton of fun.