SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Every summer kids and family love spending time at the local pool, but in recent years a national lifeguard shortage has hindered public swimming. The city of Syracuse is no exception to this trend, with effects being more widely seen since COVID was impacting everyday life when all the pools were forced to close for public health which meant no lifeguards anyway, since then those same lifeguards have not come back.
The city is trying to find new and innovative ways to get more lifeguards. The city currently has two indoor pools that operate in the winter and a total of eight pools that are open during the summer. As long as staffing allows. For the Parks and Recreation Department to feel comfortable opening all eight pools in the summer Aquatics Director Brent Lopes says the city needs anywhere from 140-180 lifeguards.
Syracuse provides lifeguarding classes all year round to try and combat the problem that they face. One challenge can be the fact that there is an entry test for those classes. Anybody that wants to take the certification class must pass the following test.
The test requires a 300-yard swim, retrieving a ten-pound block from the bottom of the pool, swimming underwater and treading water for two minutes without hands.
Christi Riddle has been the head lifeguard for the City of Syracuse for the past several years and has been a lifeguard for nearly 20 years. Riddle is part of the certification team but also the lifeguard conditioning class that the city offers to help potential lifeguards train for the entry test.
Some future lifeguards are worried about the class and test but Riddle said, “If they’re nervous because they think they can’t pass the test, come and give it a try. Every employee here is willing and ready to help them and give them tips and help people practice.”
The lifeguard conditioning class is free for anyone who wants to drop by and participate.
Over the last few years the city has been forced to find new and adaptive ways to get more lifeguards hired, this year a new program was approved by the common council allowing any Syracuse residents to take the certification class for free. The class normally costs around $100 to go through.
Aquatics Director Brent Lopes said it has been working, “We usually cap it at about 14 to 16 people long as we have enough instructors for it. So now we have a full class with 20 people when it with all hands on deck.”
Becoming a lifeguard is simple for the City of Syracuse residents, just go to Syr.gov/becomealifeguard and you can begin the process of saving lives and preventing running around the city pools.