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Lifeguard Services

Department at a Glance

Lifeguard photo


The San Diego Lifeguard Services mission is to provide for the public the highest quality of service in the coastal and aquatic environment through prevention, education and outreach programs, rescue, emergency medical care, beach management, and law enforcement.

Cliff rescue photo

Professional lifeguarding in the City of San Diego started in 1918 with five lifeguards in Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. Today there are close to 300 lifeguards, making San Diego's one of the largest professional lifeguard services in the United States. San Diego Lifeguards employ full-time year-round lifeguards, including supervisors, and seasonal lifeguards who work primarily in the summer. Previously part of the Police and Park & Recreation departments, San Diego Lifeguards are currently a division of the Fire-Rescue Department.

San Diego Lifeguards are a 24-hour rescue agency whose service area covers approximately 24 miles of coastline from the tip of Point Loma to Torrey Pines and Mission Bay. Lifeguard responsibilities include water rescue, boat rescue, marine fire suppression up to three miles offshore, coastal cliff rescue, underwater search and recovery, swift water and flood search and rescue, and emergency medical response on and around beach, bay and ocean areas. San Diego Lifeguards also handle enforcement of city, state and federal laws and regulations, through prevention, citation and arrest. All full-time lifeguards are classified as peace officers and seasonal lifeguards are classified as public officers, both with the power of arrest. Most enforcement activity however, is related to local ordinances concerning beach and water use.

Surf rescue photo

The Lifeguard Service utilizes a wide variety of rescue equipment to handle all of these responsibilities. Much of the beach and coastal lifeguarding is conducted by lifeguards working out of nine ocean front stations that are open year-round. Harbor patrol and ocean rescue services for boaters are handled by the lifeguard Boating Safety Unit operating out of Quivira Basin on Mission Bay. Lifeguards assigned to this unit have multiple responsibilities including enforcement of boating regulations and issuance of boat mooring and long-term boat beaching permits. Boating Safety Unit personnel also staff the Lifeguard Communications Center 24 hours a day. The dispatch center handles incoming 9-1-1 calls, vhf distress calls from boaters, fire and police referrals, etc. and maintains observation of boating traffic traveling in and out of Mission Bay.

Dive rescue photo

In addition to daily beach and Boating Safety Unit operations, San Diego Lifeguards have two special rescue teams. The River Rescue Team handles rescues of persons or animals throughout the City of San Diego during periods of flooding. The lifeguard Dive Rescue Team conducts underwater search and recovery in ocean and bay waters and underwater criminal investigations in conjunction with the San Diego Police Department.

Helicopter training photo

Outreach programs are another integral part of Lifeguard responsibilities. The Junior Lifeguard Program, aimed at youths 7 to 17 years of age, is an extremely popular outreach program conducted each summer with an annual attendance exceeding 500. The San Diego lifeguard service also conducts various other outreach and educational programs aimed at beach and water safety awareness. The San Diego Junior Lifeguard Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the Junior Lifeguard and outreach programs. Please visit the Foundation's website for more information.

The United States Lifesaving Association has certified the San Diego Lifeguard Service as meeting its recommended guidelines and standards for advanced lifeguard agencies.

The San Diego Lifeguard Service has made every effort to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate at the time of its posting; however, we are not responsible for any inadvertent inaccuracies which may exist.

In emergencies, San Diego lifeguards can be contacted by dialing 9-1-1.