RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – To open a Raleigh city pool, a lifeguard needs to be in each lifeguard chair and another guard needs to patrol the perimeter of a pool. Filling each of those spots has become harder than ever and its impacting whether you can go for a swim.

The City of Raleigh currently has 85 guards but 75 more are needed to fully open the city’s seasonal pools.

On Friday, just one of the city’s four seasonal pools could open. At this point, summer pools will only operate Friday through Sunday.

“If I don’t have a guard, I won’t open that body of water,” said Ken Hisler, assistant Raleigh Parks director.

Hisler has staggering the openings for the remainder of the seasonal pools. Longview Pool opened this week. Biltmore is scheduled to open next week. Lake Johnson pool will open once new guards finish certification class. Ridge Pool can’t open yet because of staffing and because it needs a new pump. That pump hasn’t come in due to supply chain issues.

“It’s been a journey. It’s not what we want but we’re excited to get Longview open,” Hisler said.

There at least 20 more guards coming down the pike. Even when they get put into chairs, there will still be a shortage of 50 lifeguards.

This year, salaries went up from $9 to $13 but that didn’t garner enough interest to fill the shortage.

“Part-time staff can be choosy and if they have the opportunity to do something that may pay a little bit more, in an air conditioned environment, maybe not as physically demanding, they’re making those choices,” Hisler said.

Hisler said the department is brainstorming ideas to shuffle existing employees.

“I do have mini buses within the city of operations. We’re working with folks who may have traditionally worked at a pool in a different area of town, can we help with shuttling?” he said.

Lifeguard requirements

Becoming a lifeguard for the city requires applicants to be:

  • 15 years of age or older
  • Pass City of Raleigh controlled substance and background tests
  • Swim 300 yards continuously with rhythmic breathing. Freestyle and breaststroke, not stopping. 
  • Tread water using only legs for two minutes
  • Swim 20 yards, retrieve a 10 lb. object from the bottom of the pool, return object to starting position and exit the water in 1 min 40 seconds

The city pays for lifeguard certification courses as long as employees work 155 hours for the City of Raleigh Aquatics Program.

Click here to apply.