'People don't want to work': Baltimore City faces lifeguard shortages
By Ashley McDowell,2023-05-30
The weather is warming up and people are ready to get outside and hit the pool. But pools in the city are facing an issue when it comes to staffing.
Pools in Baltimore City are gearing up to open for summer but capacity may be limited with a shortage of lifeguards.
Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Chief of Aquatics Nikki Cobbs, says they have 95 lifeguards ready to work. But with the need of 130 for all the pools in the city, they sometimes have to call on other staff to fill in.
"We have other staff that have the lifeguard certificate. Our pool operators, we have to utilize them as lifeguards and also our pool managers,” said Cobbs.
23 indoor and outdoor pools span the city of Baltimore that serve 27,000 swimmers annually.
She says the goal is to keep the pools open, even on short staff.
"We try our best not to close pools, that's why we went to the lifeguard swimmer ratio so even if we only have one lifeguard at a pool, we could at least let 35 people in," said Cobbs.
Cobbs said a couple factors play into the lifeguard shortage, but it mainly goes back to COVID, "since COVID, people don't want to work and it's hard to get people to actually want to come and lifeguard and it's a hard job.”
To alleviate some of the shortage, Recreation and Parks Aquatics will train anyone 15 years or older to become a lifeguard for free, as long as they sign a contract to work for the city for one summer.
And Cobb said there's potential for a bonus, "at the end of the swim season if you have no more than three unexcused absences and no disciplinary situations we give a $500 bonus to all of our lifeguards.”
Lifeguards play an important role and Cobbs reminded everyone that safety comes first, "you should never swim without a lifeguard because if you don't know how to swim that could end very deadly. So I ask no one swim after hours when the pools are closed.”
The city pools are currently open only on the weekends and are scheduled to open seven days beginning June 15.
Click here for information on the city’s free lifeguard course.