City faces lifeguard shortage | Fredericksburg Standard
Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park Pool, located inside Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park at 432 Lady Bird Drive, is a popular city swimming pool that can have heavy visitation during the summer peak hours. Due to a shortage of lifeguards, the pool has had to close periodically. — Submitted photo
Swimming has been a favorite summer pastime for many years, but due to a shortage of lifeguards, those looking for cool waters may be turned away at city pools.At this time, the City of Fredericksburg could use some lifeguards. “The number one priority at the City of Fredericksburg swimming pools is the safety of the visitors,” said Susanna Leonard, Recreation Superintendent who directly oversees lifeguards. “While we hate denying entry to anyone, at times we must for the well-being of all the visitors. At this time, we are short about eight to 10 lifeguards to fully staff the pools during the summer.”The city pools are staffed by American Red Cross-certified lifeguards and follow the standard ratio of one lifeguard for every 25 pool users. If someone is on the pool deck but obviously not swimming, they aren’t counted as a pool user, said Leonard.Lifeguards are given a short break after an hour in the stand to avoid fatigue.The pools operate on a first come, first serve basis and there are several groups that use the pools regularly.“When the pool reaches the maximum number of pool users, we do not let any more pool users in until someone has left the facility,” Leonard said. “If pool users are out of the pool taking a break on the deck they are still part of the pool user count as they may reenter the pool at any time. If someone leaves the pool facility and returns later that same day to reenter, we do not charge them again but they can only enter if we are not at capacity.”The pools also have capacities set by the City Fire Marshal that include every person inside the gate. “If we are able to recruit additional guards, once the fire marshal capacity has been met, we would still not be able to allow anyone else in the facility until someone leaves,” Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Director Andrea Warren said. “This has happened on some days at Park Pool this summer.” A drought of workersIn order to keep the operation of the pool afloat, Warren said the city could use some help.“If we had four more lifeguards that could work six days/week (40 hours per week) or eight to 10 that could work 20 hours per week, we would not need to close pools because of staff shortages,” Warren said. “Because this is a summer seasonal job, many of the lifeguards take off for vacations or only want to work 20 hours a week.”Also, Warren said sitting out in the heat every day can become tiring. “But we are very fortunate to have a great group of lifeguards this year,” Warren said. “Many going above and beyond to help visitors even with the capacity being reached.” The city is still hiring certified American Red Cross lifeguards. If there are at least three people interested, a class can be scheduled. The lifeguard certification class is free as long as the participant makes a commitment to work for the city for the summer. A nationwide problem Fredericksburg isn’t the only area experiencing this situation. One quick online search of “lifeguard shortage” will bring forth a series of similar stories nationwide.“There is an overall trend across the nation in lifeguard shortage,” Warren said. “It may be because teens think the position requires too much responsibility, plus it is hot, sometimes boring and you don’t have constant access to a cell phone. The starting pay for a first year lifeguard is $10 an hour.”An example that Warren had was “in May, Austin was short 297 lifeguards and had to close several pools and decrease hours at others.” Read more….