Lifeguard shortage impacting some Bay Area community pools

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX) – The pandemic created a shortage of lifeguards and it is creating a challenge for some Bay Area communities.

Pools were extra busy on a hot day like Tuesday. The Hamilton Pool in Novato was dealing with the shortage like so many other public pools.

They have enough to keep it open, so far, and there may be a good reason why so that kids can swim there all summer. 

Lifeguard Izzy Skol just found her new job at the pool before heading back to college in the fall. 

“I’ve had jobs in the past where you’re behind the register and inside and here, I get to spend the whole day outside,” said Skol.  

A deeper dive into the lifeguard shortage reveals recruiting and hiring them is a balancing act in many ways. 

“We don’t have a lot of lifeguard instructors. With COVID, people’s certifications were expiring,” said city of San Rafael Program Coordinator Tiffany Haley.  

That certification training costs hundreds of dollars and became more difficult to obtain when pools closed during the pandemic. 

The City of San Rafael pays for that training for its lifeguards, unlike many other cities. 

Twenty minutes away it’s quiet. McNeer Beach Pool sits empty with blue tarp all around. 

The lack of staffing has forced the county to close the pool already, for the entire season.  A posted sign shows starting pay at $19 dollars an hour.    

We found some parents nearby trying to keep their kids cool.  

“We’re cooling off in the shower and then we’re going to go home and take a rest,” said Marissa Korrs. 

Public health experts say the risk of drowning decreases significantly when lifeguards are present.

The American Lifeguard Association estimates the shortage impacts one-third of pools across the country and expects that to grow to half of all pools by August, when many teenage lifeguards return to school.

Kids are hoping that won’t lead to less pool-time in their neighborhood thanks to new lifeguards like Izzy. 

“It’s great money and it’s really nice to be outside,” said Skol. 

The American Red Cross says about 330,000 people enroll in lifeguard training each year. That figure shrank as many pools shuttered during the pandemic but that number is rising again.

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