NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – Millions of students in Texas and the United States are celebrating the end of another school year and preparing for summer fun. But a nationwide rescue shortage will limit plans for some, as cities across the country are taking steps to combat staff shortages, including keeping some pools and beaches closed.
Authorities in Austin said there would be fewer outdoor pools in the city in early June. According to the report, the city was able to hire just over 30% of the 750 rescuers needed to manage all the pools.
Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County has hired 56 of the 300 rescuers it will need and is still keeping 10 pools closed. About half an hour away, Waukesha County leaders announced last week that all park system beaches were operating at their own Risk Swimming Rules and that there would be no rescuers “due to staff shortages.”
Bernard J. Fisher II, director of health and safety at the American Rescue Association, estimates that as early as summer, about one-third to one-third of the country’s more than 300,000 pools will be affected.
“We definitely have a shortage,” Fisher said. “The worst I’ve ever seen.”
According to some experts, declining interest in rescuers is not a new problem, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the closure of many pools and training sessions and the fact that many of the young applicants who usually apply now choose retail or restaurant jobs. offers a higher salary. According to Fischer, owning unmanned pools can be dangerous and even deadly.
However, leaders in this field say that this point also provides an important opportunity to reshape the story around work: how it is perceived by the public, who can do it, how much it pays, and why it is so important.
“We need to keep wage rates, we need to keep encouraging these lifeguards, and we need to make sure everyone understands at the end of the day that there’s no better job than being a kind of lifeguard,” said Tom Gill, vice president of the United States Life Rescue Association. non-profit organization.
Where are all the rescuers?
Long before COVID-19, the rescue profession was already struggling with a number of challenges: low salaries due to the cost of training required to sit in a chair, a limited work season, and negative or often indifferent public opinion.
Gill said beach rescuers typically undergo various trainings to work on a less predictable beach, but face the same recruitment as pool lifeguards.
“The average salary has always been the minimum,” said Lieneke Keihl, an instructor at the American Red Cross in Dayton, Ohio. “(Young people) prefer jobs that pay more.”
To combat shortages this year, cities across the country have raised salaries, waived tuition fees, and offered more money to get more applicants through the door. Boulder, Colorado, raised rescuers’ salaries by an average of $ 12 four years ago and from $ 13 last year to about $ 15.25 an hour. City spokesman Jonathan Thornton said the city also pays for job-related training.
According to several websites that offer training, including the Red Cross, YMCA, and the United States Life Rescue Association, training courses for rescuers cost several hundred dollars, depending on the level of certification.
“The only reason employers are evading wages is because we rely on young people who don’t have to pay rent,” Fischer told the Rescue Association. “We will have to raise salaries. We need to give incentives to get the numbers we need.”
Phoenix, Arizona officials announced earlier this year that they were offering a $ 2,500 bonus for rescuers as part of their training costs. Officials said in a March report that the basic hourly wage there was about $ 14.02. In Texas, Austin officials increased their salaries by $ 16-19 an hour and added a bonus of about $ 1,250, including paid sick leave and a free bus ticket.
Jodie Jay, assistant director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said Austin had no difficulty recruiting before COVID-19, and in 2019 it hired more rescuers than it did every year. But the pandemic “stopped us on our way,” forcing a freeze on training and recruitment that lasted more than a year and still had an impact, Jay said.
“When we resumed work in March 2021, we limited how many rescuers we could have in a class, and that prevented us from reaching the (required) 750 last year,” Jay said. “So this will be the second summer we’ve had trouble recruiting rescuers, but we’ve had a hard time getting people back to work as soon as we got out of the pandemic.”
There is another pool of applicants that many agencies cannot apply to, which has usually helped to increase the numbers: foreigners.
Gill said, “Some of our agencies are sometimes dependent on foreign workers, especially when you talk about filling those roles at the end of the summer.”
Many of these workers were able to come to the United States on J-1 visas, confirming the arrival of people to participate in work and education-based programs. However, a Trump-era order temporarily banned visas, including J-1, during the pandemic. After President Joe Biden rescinded the order last summer, officials struggled with numerous appeals.
About 4,000 drownings each year
According to experts, the freezing of training and recruitment in the country also meant less swimming lessons, as many young children are now coming to swimming pools and beaches for the first time.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,900 American children die of suffocation each year, with an average of 11 children dying each day. According to the CDC, about 8,000 non-fatal suffocations occur each year, which can lead to other serious consequences, such as brain damage and long-term disability.
The U.S. Water Safety, which includes nonprofits and governments such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the most important strategies to prevent drowning include learning to swim and monitoring people who can prevent, recognize, and react. someone drowning, for example, rescuers.
Experts warn that the lack of rescuers in the United States can be fatal
Source link Experts warn that the lack of rescuers in the United States can be fatal