Wake County News

Raleigh parks department rolling out new recruiting efforts to curb lifeguard shortage

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - There is once again a lifeguard shortage, despite the temporary closure of a popular pool.

In recent years, Raleigh's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department had to occasionally close portions of pools or limit the number of people who could get in at one time if there weren't enough lifeguards to cover a shift. That sometimes led to lines and wait times.

Aquatics director Terri Stroupe said the staffing situation is better this year, but that is in part due to the Pullen Aquatic Center Renovation project. Construction began in early June and will run through December. Stroupe said the closure allows for the reassignment of 60 lifeguard shifts to other pools.

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"We've really been struggling in the last couple of years to find people to take the lifeguarding class. It seems to not be the cool job that everybody used to think it was," Stroupe said. "It's a hard job. It can be boring. (There are) hot days like today, and you need to be physically fit."

The Parks Department's recruiting efforts include offering free training to anyone who agrees to work at a city pool upon completion of their certification. Stroupe calls it a Seasonal Aquatic Vocation Education program — SAVE for short.

Tricia Severa taught 10 teens the in SAVE training over the past two weeks. The minimum age to participate is 15 years old. Severa said there seems to be an increased interest this summer, but it could still be better.

"Still not enough. We still need lifeguards. There's a lifeguard shortage, so the more we can train, the better we are," she said.

"Most of what we get is high school people. During the school year, we get a lot of college students, because some of our pools are close to the college campuses. We get the retired person, we get the stay-at-home mom who wants something to do during the day, so we get a little bit of everything."

Severa said the official title for the lifeguards is Professional Rescuer. They receive instruction and certification in CPR, First Aid, and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Some Raleigh lifeguards have gone on to become paramedics, nurses, and doctors.

"It's a neat job to do. It's a great experience. You get to help people," Stroupe said. "I think it's still a cool job."

The aquatics division is still accepting applications.


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