Shortages of lifeguards impacting pool and beach operations in Hampton Roads

Posted at 4:44 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 19:49:52-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- They are at the beach and your local public pool making sure you are not in danger, but as we approach summer, there is a lifeguard shortage impacting local areas.

“Locally and nationally there’s a shortage of lifeguards,” Dan Jones said.

Jones is the Division Head for the City of Norfolk’s Aquatics and Beaches. He said the pandemic is to blame.

“Capacities have been reduced throughout the country,” Jones explained. “Whether it be swimming pool, water parks or any type of aquatic environment."

As things pick up, Jones said lifeguards are needed and agencies are hiring. The shortage can also put a strain on current lifeguard staff.

"I’ve come back to lifeguarding after being gone for a couple of years,” Zachary Nelson, a five-year lifeguard and Marine Corp service-member, said. "When I first started it seemed like an interesting job. I wanted to try it out, went through the class to get my certification."

Nelson and his colleague, Elana Vaquez, are lifeguards at the Southside Aquatics Center in Norfolk. They were on duty Tuesday morning as visitors swam in each of the lanes at the center’s pool.

“I became a lifeguard because I love swimming,” Vazquez said. “I got the idea from high school. I was on my high school swim team so that’s what sparked my interest."

Jones said most agencies hire lifeguards as young as 16-years-old, but those 15-years-old can start taking required courses.

Seniors and retirees are also considered, Jones added. He also explained some of the physical requirements candidates must meet to be a lifeguard.

“You need to be able to dive to seven, 10 feet of water,” Jones explained, “bring a 10-pound brick and two of the brick, get out of the swimming pool independently"

Lifeguard agencies like in Norfolk will start new-hires at pools before being placed at beaches but other cities may have you start at the beach. The job is not just physically demanding but is also mentally demanding.

“There’s books, and there’s assignments, there’s chapters, there’s also CPR and first aid,” Jones added.

Jones urges anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard to reach out to their local public pools or visit their city’s employment page to for hiring opportunities and information. Jones added pool companies may also have information to help those interested.