To beat the heat, cities and towns across western New York are opening their pools. But, they need help keeping swimmers safe. Despite a current lifeguard shortage, and the challenges of finding new ones, pools will be open for summer.
“It's just a constant scanning process,” M.C. Miskuly explained poolside Monday. The 19-year-old has been lifeguarding at the Brighton pool in the Town of Tonawanda for three years. She said she can't let her guard down for a second when she's on duty.
Still, Miskuly said the job has its perks. “I think it's awesome coming back after being inside all winter and then getting to be outside and enjoy summer sun and everything.”
Miskuly is a lifeguard fulltime until she heads back to college in August.
In fact, a majority of lifeguards in Tonawanda are in college. That's why the town has to close all of its outdoor pools in early to mid-August when the students go back to school.
“Staffing becomes so few and far between that we don't have enough staffing to keep the aquatic and fitness center open as well as the pools,” explained Andy Page. Page oversees pool operations for the Town of Tonawanda.
Andy Rabb heads pool staffing for the City of Buffalo. He said the city hires about 100 lifeguards for the summer months.
It still needs 14.
However, Rabb said all nine locations will open July 1st as scheduled. “These are more additional staff that help supplement the staff we have if people take vacations towards the end of the summer, or, if there are kids that have to go back to college,” Rabb said.
Cheektowaga town officials said they're in a similar boat. They need about half dozen more lifeguards to be fully staffed across three public pools. So, they said they're getting creative with pool hours. For example, they’re closing when it rains. They’re also staggering break times to keep operations running smoothly.
As for Miskuly, she encouraged anyone thinking of a summer job to consider getting lifeguard and C.P.R. certified. “It's really fun. It's a good way to meet new people, meet the people in your community and get closer to them.”
In addition to being certified, City of Buffalo applicants must live in the city, and pass a background check. The job pays $13.24 an hour. To apply, call: 851-5998.
The town of Tonawanda doesn't have a residency requirement. It pays $10.40 an hour. For more information, call 877-8800.