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Salt Lake County seeing a shortage of lifeguards at public pools

A lifeguard watches over the lap pool at Fairmont Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City.

A lifeguard watches over the lap pool at Fairmont Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City. (Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio)



SALT LAKE CITY – Pool managers across Salt Lake County reported they're having a hard time finding enough lifeguards to keep watch over everyone.

In a normal year, officials with the Fairmont Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City would have offered swimming lessons by this time. However, those classes had to be pushed back to July.

Facility manager Bess Thompson said several of their instructors and lifeguards didn't return after they had to close last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thompson said, "Many of our swim instructors went and found other jobs because they needed to pay their bills. Now, we're in a spot where we can hire some instructors and start the program and offer it to the community."

Plus, the pandemic delayed how they recruit lifeguards, and Thompson said they focused on finding their lifeguards first before hiring new swim instructors. She said there are specific rules regarding the number of guards they're required to have at any given time.

"It has to do with the number of blind spots in a pool," according to Thompson, adding that someone has to be watching all potential danger spots at all times.

They have enough lifeguards at Fairmont to stay open, but Thompson said they don't want to overwork their staff, so they need to find a lot more employees.

Liz Sollis with Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation said many of their pools are seeing a similar shortage of lifeguards.

"Once we actually do recruit lifeguards, they've got to go through the proper training so they can be certified," she said.

If they don't find more people to watch over the pools, the county may have to move workers around and extend shifts. Additionally, in the worst-case scenario, they may need to limit the number of people at those aquatic centers.

Sollis said, "Now, what we've been doing is training a lot of lifeguards and trying to get people on board."

People can apply to be lifeguards on Salt Lake County's job website.

Paul Nelson

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