VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Summer vacations and extreme heat have many people hitting the beaches of Volusia County.
Beach safety officials say a nationwide shortage of lifeguards is having an effect locally.
Volusia County Beach Safety Deputy Chief Tamara Malphurs says their lifeguard numbers are down 30 to 40 percent from the same time last year, so they’re stepping up recruiting efforts and adjusting how they do things to keep people safe.
“We rescued just under 300 people this last week alone,” Malphurs said.
In terms of every day operations, Malphurs says the shortage hasn’t changed much for her agency.
Current lifeguards may be asked to pick up overtime to cover shifts, and there may be more unguarded portions of the beach at times.
Lifeguard towers get staffed based on priority from crowds and water conditions.
Malphurs says she believes there are several reasons for the shortage.
“It’s a very physically demanding job,” Malphurs said. “It’s a lot of responsibility, and you can’t have your cell phone on-tower.”
Potential lifeguards must do 48 hours of ocean rescue training, take a 40 hour first-responder and CPR course, and swim 500 meters in 10 minutes, 10 yards in 30 seconds, and run a half mile in under three minutes and 15 seconds.
Malphurs says they’re using social media to recruit and offering a $500 bonus for returning lifeguards. The job pays $13.24 per hour.
Beach Safety officials insist they have not seen an impact on response times due to the shortage.
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