Close calls in the Kansas City area draw attention to lifeguard shortage

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Just this week, at least two people in the metro area had to be rushed from the pool to the hospital. Each time a lifeguard jumped into action.

However, this year, pools across the country faced a shortage of lifeguards leaving everyone vulnerable.

Seven-year-old Charlie Forrester finally achieved the green bracelet Thursday at the YMCA at the Northern Platte pool. He beamed with pride.  

“I was so proud of Charlie because he has had a really tough time because he's been scared of swimming and deep water for, I don't know, three, four years,” Charlie’s mom Gretchen explained.

The green means Charlie passed the swim test and can swim without an adult in the water.

But Charlie's mom is glad lifeguards will still be watching.

”If you look at what happened last week at the Vivion Road YMCA how a couple of lifeguards pulled the 19-year-old out of the deep end which is 12 feet of water, I don't think I could do that but they saved a life that day,” Forrester said.

In St. Joe, however, two out of three pools couldn’t open this summer because of a shortage of lifeguards.

The city even raised hourly wages from $7.50 to $9 an hour to try and lure workers. Still, some certification classes cost $200.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City said it's well staffed, but pools that aren’t can be risky.

“You're going to run the risk of possibly requiring the lifeguards that you do have work longer hours which can lead to fatigue, especially if they are outside in the sun, possibly not staying hydrated,” Amanda Mitchell, Sr. Aquatics Director YMCA Greater Kansas City, said.

The YMCA doesn’t have the same problem in part because it waives the certification fee for lifeguards who will work at its facility and because it offers courses year round.

“With two of our facilities under expansion about to open in our Parkville and Platte facilities, we're very much in a hiring phase for lifeguards right now. Just in the month of May we did offer ten lifeguard classes across the metro,” Mitchell said.

On one job posting website there were 58 area pools looking for lifeguards.

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