Lifeguard shortage hits community pools

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, but this year, like last, many municipalities are having a hard time recruiting lifeguards and swim instructors.

Like many industries, during the pandemic, the labor pool dried up for lifeguards, as many pools closed to the public. San Francisco Recreation and Parks department’s Nicholas Williams Superintendent of Community Services says, they usually have about 160-170 water safety staff for summer, but this year, only 130 staff are on duty.

He says they’ve been recruiting and trying to get qualified personnel into the pipeline to get swim instructors to become lifeguards.

The risk of not having enough lifeguards is that facilities may have to close pools on days without enough staff. More importantly, there’s a higher risk of drownings. The American Lifeguard Association says over 300,000 pools across the U.S. are affected this year by the shortage of lifeguards.

Williams says, ‘’We’re doing everything we can to recruit and hire. We’re tapping into our network of swim teams, seniors, members of the community. If you know how to swim, we’ll train you for free to be a lifeguard and then we’ll give you a job as a lifeguard.’’

Petra Janopaul of San Francisco’s Noe Valley says, her three kids are all under ten years old, but they know how to swim. They have taken swim lessons over the last two years at the Pomeroy Center in San Francisco.

She said her family plans on traveling this summer and the kids love to swim, wherever they go. "I’ve always got the swimsuits in the car. But yes, water safety is essential."

Alice Wertz is a freelance reporter for KTVU. Twitter: @alicestake