VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Volusia County Beach Patrol is looking for solutions to its extensive staffing shortage.
Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs with Volusia County Beach Patrol said if conditions were ideal, they would have roughly 300 active lifeguards. They currently have about 130 full-time and part-time people on patrol.
"[It’s been] difficult for the employees that are working because we are doing the same amount of work with less people," she said.
Due to the shortage, they don’t have enough resources to have lifeguards at all the towers. Malphurs said they consider things like crowd size, water conditions, and rip current risk to determine which towers will be active. Beachgoers are urged to swim near the active ones.
"When you come to the beach, take some personal responsibility,’ she added. "Find out where those staffed lifeguard towers are before you come over for the day."
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There are several factors that contribute to the shortage, and Malphurs said the requirements are too much for many. There is a high standard for lifeguards on patrol, and that is a standard that must be kept in order to save lives.
"[There are] other job opportunities out there that may be more flexible and less demanding," she added.
As an attempt to combat those concerns, the department is offering a pay bonus in addition to the base pay. The pay rate for part-time lifeguards is about $15 an hour. For the full-time positions, it ranges from $36,000 to $60,000.
Despite the financial incentives, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood expressed concerns about the openings filling back up to capacity.
"The lifeguards are really, really great athletes. They really are professional athletes, and they're well-trained," he said. "A lot of people don't want to do that."
He likened the shortage to the one many law enforcement departments are seeing across the county. Both Chitwood and Malphurs stress the importance of swimming in front of the towers when you attend the beaches. More information about the positioning of the lifeguards can be found on the Volusia Beaches mobile app.
Visit Volusia County's website to learn more about lifeguard positions.