NEWS

City addressing lifeguard shortage, aims to restore pool hours

Posted 8/5/21

By JARED GUSTAFSON Warwick could use some more lifeguards, and Beverly Wiley, director of Parks and Recreation, is hopeful that with a lifeguard certification class that started Monday and the closure of city beaches at the end of the summer, the city

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NEWS

City addressing lifeguard shortage, aims to restore pool hours

Posted

Warwick could use some more lifeguards, and Beverly Wiley, director of Parks and Recreation, is hopeful that with a lifeguard certification class that started Monday and the closure of city beaches at the end of the summer, the city will be able to fully restore hours of operation at McDermott Pool.

At the moment, the demand for lifeguards outstrips the numbers available.

Wiley said she received five to 10 calls this week about hosting birthday parties at the pool but she can’t accommodate them because of the lack of lifeguards.

To address the shortage, Greg Hindle, chief lifeguard at McDermott, is holding certification classes this week while looking to recruit new guards to the team. The city currently has 19 lifeguards, however, six of them will be leaving in the following weeks for college. These lifeguards have responsibility for McDermott Pool, Oakland Beach, and Warwick City Park. Currently, Conimicut Point is not open for swimming because the city doesn’t have enough lifeguards to also open this beach.

At the moment, the 19 lifeguards are split up between the city beaches and the city pool. However, once those six lifeguards go back to school in a few weeks, there will be an issue with trying to split up 13 guards between three different places. Wiley said that with both the city beaches and McDermott pool being open, 13 lifeguards won’t be enough for both places to run at full capacity. Ideally, Wiley would like to have 30 lifeguards for the spring, summer and fall seasons.

“It would be great to have a glut of lifeguards,” Wiley said.

Warwick is not alone in facing a lifeguard shortage. According to the May 29 edition of the New York Times, there is a national shortage of lifeguards. In 2019, the Red Cross certified 98,570 lifeguards compared to only certifying 51,811 lifeguards as of April 2020. The Times reported lifeguards are not making enough money and people would rather work at grocery stores, such as Stop & Shop, which starts workers at $17 an hour. Lifeguards in Warwick start at $13.50 an hour.

“We can’t run at full capacity unless we get the number of lifeguards we need,” Wiley said.

The pool opens up at 7 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and closes at 2:45 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, the pool opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 10 a.m. However, Wiley wants McDermott Pool to open at 5:30 a.m. after Labor Day on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The pool opens at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and closes at 7:45 p.m.

Warwick is especially looking to hire lifeguards for the morning shift, which covers the hours of 5 to 10 a.m. when a number of elderly residents use the pool.

“It’s their social life, and it’s how they interact,” Wiley said.

Knowing the pool’s significance to the elderly and the need for full capacity, Wiley is looking to hire 10 additional lifeguards.

Starting this week, Hindle is holding lifeguard certification classes at McDermott Pool. He currently has six candidates that are signed up for certification class, but says he can have up to 10.

The lifeguard certification class runs through this Friday.

Certification involves a seven-hour online class that can be done at home during the candidate’s own time. The other hours take place in the pool, completing multiple physical tasks. Hindle said some of these prerequisite tasks involve a 300-meter swim, diving for 10-pound brick and towing it back to the other side of the pool in under a minute and a half, and lastly treading water without use of arms for two minutes. Certification is good for two years.

Hindle said rookie lifeguards start at $13.50 and can make up to $16.50 while working at McDermott Pool. Experienced lifeguards can start off anywhere from $13.50 to $16.50 deepening on the amount of experience. Hindle said the main responsibility of city lifeguards is safety and preventing injuries.

“A dry lifeguard is a good lifeguard. We are hoping our lifeguards don’t have to get wet,” he said.

Hindle said most lifeguard recruits are from the ages of 16 to 19. However, he said, “as long as you can keep swimming, it’s a great part-time job.”

Hindle encourages all ages to apply to become a guard.

“If you love being at the beach or by the water, then this job is for you,” he said.

Hindle and Wiley are always welcoming new lifeguards to apply each day, and if you are looking to become the next summer hero, you can contact Beverly Wiley at (401) 921-9623 or Greg Hindle at (401) 921-9627.

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