Pools nationwide grapple with summer lifeguard shortage

  • Lifeguard shortage is due to a combination of factors including low wages
  • Cities are working to combat the shortage offering free training, bonuses
  • Expert: Until it’s recognized as a career, the shortage will continue

DANIA BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation) — As Memorial Day weekend is set to mark the unofficial start of summer, many municipalities across the U.S. are struggling to fill lifeguard positions, and the shortage is causing some cities to modify their pool operating hours.

The shortage started during the coronavirus pandemic. Facilities saw fewer training opportunities both to become lifeguards and to recertify. It caused a ripple effect still being felt this summer.

It’s also being exacerbated by low pay. Most lifeguards are high school and college students who are working for extra money over the summer.

As a result, officials fear pools could face another summer of closures.

“Communities don’t take lifeguarding seriously, it is more than just that summer job for high school and college kids,” said Wyatt Werneth, an American Lifeguard Association national spokesperson. “We’re saving lives, we’re protecting your children, you know, it’s more than that. Until we recognize it as a career professional organization, we’re going to see a decline.”

In 2022, one-third of the country’s public pools were impacted by the lifeguard shortage – that’s roughly 309,000 pools according to the American Lifeguard Association.

Cities are getting creative to fill the gaps. In Atlanta, some YMCAs are offering free lifeguard training. Cities like Phoenix, are offering a 3,000 bonus.

“To combat these shortages, in life-saving, the one thing a lot of people have had to do and probably should have done earlier is raised salaries,” said Tom Grill, the vice president of the United States Lifesaving Association.


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