BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The search is on for lifeguards in Birmingham. Without them public pools throughout the city cannot open.
The city’s lifeguard staff took a dive during COVID and is now working to recover.
Birmingham’s Recreation Superintendent Ronald Hicks said that pre-pandemic their staff was up to 135. Now they’re down to 15, but he does say they have seen a lot of lifeguard interest.
Hicks said they want to provide fun and safe pool options over the summer and that he hopes it doesn’t reach a point where community members have to choose other unmonitored pool options.
He said lifeguard supervision is always important even for good swimmers.
“And that keeps kids from doing other things, you know, this entertains them as well as keeping them cool,” said Hicks. “Anything you can do to deter idle hands is a great thing. Our main thing is safety for all not only Birmingham pools but throughout the state. I know that’s the main issue with everyone in search of lifeguards.”
He says they hope to open 10 of 18 pools if recruitment goes well. That would be eight more than they were able to open last summer.
All but one of the pools are outdoors, so Hicks said they also experience maintenance issues due to extreme temperature changes throughout the year.
“And we also have to realize, our pools have been in existence since 1967,” said Hicks. “So yes, we have to maintain them year-round. So, in my opinion, and it’s going to happen, is that an upgrade it going to have to come soon with the pools in the city of Birmingham.”
Now extra training is offered, taking place at local YMCAs and the Birmingham CrossPlex.
To encourage more people within the community to become lifeguards, Hicks said pay is higher and their age requirement has been lowered to 16. Scholarships are also available.
Annette Rowland, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said they also provide training, saying lifeguards are essential for safety.
American Red Cross lifeguard training requirements:
- Participants must be 15 years old on or by the last day of training.
- Participants must be able to swim 300 yards with a combination of freestyle and breaststroke without rest.
- Participants must have proof of ID on 1st day of class.
- Participants must be able to tread water without arms for 2 minutes straight.
- Participants must complete a timed brick test.
- Participants must wear appropriate bathing suits for water skills, shorts for men and 1-piece suits for women.
Rowland said you can obtain your two-year certification by taking a lifeguarding course from the American Red Cross through your local YMCA or visit redcross.org/takeaclass.
She said courses take as little as 30 hours and emphasize hands-on training, supported by classroom instruction.