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Is the lifeguard shortage impacting our pools locally?

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 6:39 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s the perfect time to go swimming, but for many across the country, there are not enough lifeguards to keep pools open.

The American Lifeguard Association says it could affect between one-third and half of all public U.S. pools.

In New York, they’ve lowered the age to become a lifeguard. In Texas, they’re offering over $1,200 bonuses to recruits.

It’s the heat of the day, but the pool is closed. The shortage of lifeguards is part of the reason why only two outdoor pools can be open for three hours a day in Richmond County.

Both of Richmond County’s public pools are limited to being open from 2 to 5 p.m., five days a week.

The head lifeguard at Jones Pool agrees with the decision.

“That just gives us a good window to let the community swim at like a hot part of the day but doesn’t overload our lifeguards,” he said.

Along with the hours, there are other drawbacks, too.

“Because of the shortage of lifeguards, we actually had to turn away some people, and it’s been sad, but it’s been max capacity as we’ve been trying to let as many people in as possible and have everyone cycle in and have fun,” he said

Grady says that number is 25 people per lifeguard. For this pool, only two are available.

We reached out to the Red Cross about the situation.

The organization said staff shortages go beyond the aquatic industry, and the increased competition for workers has made it difficult for aquatic facilities to hire and retain staff.

“Facilities have experienced staffing and training disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years. Now, many facilities are faced with recruiting, hiring and training 100% of the staff required to operate safely – including lifeguards, water safety Instructors and managers,” the Red Cross said.

It noted that several organizations are offering hiring bonuses and increased pay to help entice people to work for them.

People age 15 and older with strong swimming skills can enroll in an American Red Cross lifeguard course. Upon successful completion, they receive a two-year certification.

Information is available at redcross.org/lifeguarding.

Staying cool

As the public pools are only open for three hours a day in Richmond County, there are some other options as you can explore some of the splash pads in the CSRA to cool off from the summer heat.

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