RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Lifeguards can be guardian angels for struggling swimmers, but Triangle-area community pools continue to deal with a shortage of staff.

Terri Stroupe, the aquatics director for Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department, said her team of 120 lifeguards is at 80% of her goal.

“We need about 30 more lifeguards to make it fully staffed for the summer, so we are moving people around, doing the best we can with the staff that we’ve trained and hired,” Stroupe said.

There are limits on how many people can be in a pool at once, and the number changes along with the number of lifeguards on duty.

Durham recreation manager Colleen Toomey said her lifeguards rotate to make sure someone is always inside and ready to step in if an active guard needs relief.

“We follow the American Red Cross standard of making sure there’s always a down rotation guard to be able to adequately rest our lifeguards from fatigue and eye strain, especially in these hot temperatures,” Toomey said.
“They’re susceptible to the heat, just like everybody else. Making sure that they have adequate water supply and are hydrated out there along with our patrons.”

Toomey said there is a nationwide struggle to meet departmental demands for lifeguards. Durham offers a free American Red Cross certification program for lifeguards. The city’s program primarily targets teens, but Durham now allows adults to enroll in the free training classes. Participants typically complete the 36-hour course in two weeks and then begin paid work.

Durham’s efforts to hire will continue past the end of the summer swim season since two of the city’s pools are open year-round.

Raleigh promotes its training program as Seasonal Aquatic Vocational Education (SAVE).

“The pre-requisite test seems to be what really gets people in trouble,” aquatics director Terri Stroupe said.

“They have to be able to swim eight lengths of the pool, freestyle and breast-stroke. They must tread water with just their legs, no arms, for two minutes, and then you have to retrieve a 10-pound brick from 10 feet of water and take it back to the starting point in under a minute and 40 seconds,” she said.

Prospective lifeguards can apply to be a lifeguard in Raleigh and in Durham.

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