BALTIMORE — A nationwide lifeguard shortage is affecting about a third of the country’s public pools, including some right here in Baltimore.
The city’s Department of Recreation and Parks has been trying to work around the issue this summer.
But officials are warning of the dangers that come with it.
“It affects our capacities,” Deputy Director of Recreation Karen Jordan said.
While some pools and splash pads have closed completely, others have been forced to operate at restricted hours.
“We allow a number of swimmers according to our number of lifeguards that we have,” Jordan said.
She said the reason for this is to ensure the safety of all visitors to the pools.
“I understand they want to swim but . . . it’s very unsafe to swim without lifeguards on duty,” Jordan said.
The limited hours pose another issue too.
“Unfortunately, we have experienced break-ins through our aquatic facilities after hours,” Jordan said.
Last month, Baltimore police used its helicopter, commonly known as Foxtrot, to order after-hours swimmers to get out of the Patterson Park Swimming Pool.
A few weeks later, a 15-year-old boy was hospitalized after nearly drowning at the Roosevelt Park Pool around 9:30 p.m.
“The fencing there is to keep everyone safe . . . to protect people,” Jordan said. “Should someone have an emergency without lifeguards being present, this is a life or death situation and we do not want people to be injured or drastically pass at our pools.”
The department is doing whatever it can to fill its lifeguard vacancies, Jordan said. It will be recruiting throughout the year because it doesn’t want to face the same issue next year.
“We have increased the salaries for lifeguards and we’ve also added an incentive for lifeguards for bonus pay,” she said.