BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – A nationwide shortage in lifeguards is hitting close to home. Facilities in Western New York are scrambling to find people for the job as summer starts.
“Lifeguards have always been a difficult position to hire for, you know there’s this glamorous thought about being a lifeguard, but it truly is a stressful job,” said Nick Bond, who’s the VP of operations and program innovation at the YMCA. “It takes a certain personality to be able to keep a pool safe.”
Bond says the YMCA of Western New York needs to hire 20 lifeguards. He says the shortage is because of a number of factors. The main one is that the organization couldn’t offer lifeguard training because of the pandemic.
“Lifeguard training is very hands on, you have to be in very close proximity the people that you’re training with,” Bond said.
The YMCA started offering lessons again a few months ago, but Bond says a lot of other places in the area that normally would offer lessons, haven’t started them up again.
“Which has created a shortage. There’s not as many people trained, there’s just as many pools out there and people are excited about getting those pools open, so there’s a scramble to try to find qualified lifeguards to help guard those pools,” he said.
Bond says if they hire more lifeguards they can extend their pool hours and provide more swim lessons.
“The pool is fun, and we want the pool to be fun, and we also want it to be safe,” he said. “So being able to provide swim lessons, is something that the Y prides itself on.”
Over in the city of Buffalo, there’s currently two indoor pools open. The Lovejoy Pool and Cazenovia Connors, Kait, Harrity Memorial Pool. Swimmers need to make a reservation at both locations.
Deputy Commissioner of Parks Andy Rabb, tells News 4 that lifeguard training is only available in the Winter, and because they couldn’t train people, they’re also down lifeguards. As it stands, he says he doesn’t believe the city can open its outdoor pools if they don’t hire more lifeguards. He says the city is reevaluating its pool program and that the city will have an update before July 1st.
Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.