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Lifeguard shortage limits hours at some Midlands pools

WIS News 10 Sunrise airs Monday through Friday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 10:06 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 13, 2022 at 8:38 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A dip in the pool this summer in South Carolina may come with some restrictions.

A lifeguard shortage has some Midlands pools cutting back operating hours or closing due to a shortage. Hiring lifeguards is proving to be harder than in years past according to Demetrius Hardy with the Orangeburg County YMCA.

Hardy said the aquatic department is struggling to hire qualified people with a high number of African American applicants not able to swim.

“We found that a number of people in our area are just not strong enough swimmers to even be able to pass the pretest for the lifeguard class,” Hardy said.

Right now they could use about 40 lifeguards to cover the two pools they operate. Pool hours are limited right now for people wanting to cool off.

“When we have people come out to the park, we want to keep them as safe as possible so we need to be fully staffed that’s the reason why we’re only able to open the park here on Saturdays and then we have another part that we operate in Santee, South Carolina we’re only able to open that on Fridays,” Hardy said.

Normally the pools would be open during the week.

The lifeguard shortage isn’t just happening in the Midlands. New data from the American Lifeguard Association shows more than 300,000 U.S. swimming pools are being impacted or closed right now.

Experts blame low pay, training cost, limited working seasons, and a general lack of interest as some factors causing the lifeguard shortage.

“What we’re looking to do in this community is partner with some of the local schools, for example, some of the colleges as well,” Hardy said. “Not just the high schools, but the colleges as well to develop a pipeline to where we can get some of these people in the water, get them some of the base training that they need in order to, later on, enroll in one of our lifeguard classes.”

Data from the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis shows that 64 percent of African American children cannot swim compared to 40 percent of white children who cant.

To apply at the YMCA as a lifeguard you can go to columbiaymca.org/careers or email alexdavis@columbiaymca.org.

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