As people flock to beaches, lakes and pools for the summer season, many cities are still facing shortages for lifeguard staffing.
“When I tell you we had no staff, there were times where we couldn't open pools,” beach manager Brittany Bowman said. “There were times where we would have to shut down certain sections of the pool to accommodate what we do have. That shortage made us work a lot harder than we've ever worked before in our life. So last summer, in the summer before that, we were pulling doubles, we were working extra shifts. We were calling people on their days off. It was extremely trying.”
The issue has been brewing for years, with poor pay playing a part. But, since the city of Rochester announced a significant pay raise for lifeguards, Genesee Valley Pool has seen a huge enrollment rate.
“Competitive pay helps,” coordinator of athletics and aquatics Mike Corey said. “It has attracted a lot of lifeguards and new recruits. More money brings more people. For us, it's actually going to be able to open the pools that we want to open, and have enough staff for safety for people to come and swim. As you see here, we have a pretty big-sized pool here, all sections open up for families to come enjoy.”
With all hands on deck, this allows the pool to go back to its regular hours, as several areas still face an ongoing shortage that can lead to fatal consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings, an average of 11 drowning deaths per day, occur every year within the U.S. With the increase in applicants so far, the increase in pay not only benefits its staff but the safety of their swimmers as well.
“I’ve actually only been a lifeguard for two weeks,” lifeguard Sienna Brown said. “You really have to pay attention and be focused because anything can happen at any given moment. I’m saving people in my community, I’m making sure they stay safe so they won’t have any accidents and I’m just having fun.”
Aside from pay, many of its lifeguards continue to promote more applicants to join, understanding how vital their role is to the community.
“First of all I am doing something that I love, it doesn't feel like a job to me,” Brown said. “I was swimming here for a long period of time, I became friends with some of the lifeguards, and it just showed me how much I really wanted to be a lifeguard. I’m happy that I did it, and I am happy that I have a big community, they’re like my family.”