Where have all the rescuers gone?

(NewsNation) – Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer for many, but beating the heat at your local pool may be tougher than ever this year. That’s because communities across the country are struggling to find lifeguards.

The shortage could prevent the opening of about a third of the country’s more than 300,000 public swimming pools, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

“Like everyone else, if we don’t have enough lifeguards, we have to close the pools because we’re not going to open a pool that we know is not going to be safe,” said Bill Plessinger, head of lifeguards. aquatic activities at Westerville Parks. and recreation near Columbus, OH.

Last week, the Austin, Texas Parks Department said it was short of more than 500 lifeguards to operate the city’s swimming pools.

In some ways, the shortage of lifeguards is a continuation of a problem that has been going on for more than a year.

Last summer, Philadelphia only had enough lifeguards to open a fraction of its outdoor pools.

In Minneapolis, only three of 12 public beaches were patrolled last year.

Staffing issues have left cities scrambling to fill vacancies. Many now offer incentives for rescuers to return to the watchtower.

In Chicago, seasonal lifeguards are eligible to receive a $500 retention bonus.

So what is causing the shortage? Experts say it’s a combination of factors brought on by the coronavirus and the tight labor market.

In some cases, small municipal park departments struggle to attract workers with competitive salaries.

“Other companies are coming in that pay these 16-17-18 year olds more money. You have to compete with Amazon, Target and Chik-Fil-A,” said Mecklenburg County Aquatic Sports Supervisor Michael Johnson. .

Other NewsNation said there just wasn’t as much help as usual – the war in Ukraine has led to fewer young people coming from Europe to work summer jobs thanks to the J-1 visa.

Experts point out that the problem is getting worse: Fewer lifeguards also means less lifeguard training and less swimming lessons.

For now, the parks service is hoping older Americans can fill the void — retirees looking for part-time poolside jobs.


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