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Published: Tuesday, 6/5/2001

Lifeguards plentiful for Toledo-area swimming

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Plenty of lifeguards should be at the ready when people hit the local beaches and pools this summer.

Though some areas of the country are reporting shortages in the number of available lifeguards, two programs in the Toledo area train and certify 300 to 400 people a year, which should be enough to meet area needs.

Larry Lev, a vice president of the YMCA of Greater Toledo, said the organization employs nearly 200 lifeguards during the summer, and most have been trained by the YMCA. The number varies, but YMCA officials said they train and certify between 100 and 150 people annually, and the local chapter of the American Red Cross trains and certifies 200 to 250.

Mr. Lev said the Bowman Aquatic Center at the YMCA branch on Tremainsville Road has about 60 lifeguards on its payroll during the summer.

Kristen Cajka, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said many areas of the country have fewer training opportunities and lifeguards are often in short supply. Pools and park districts must compete with better-paying jobs or internships where youngsters can build careers.

The Red Cross places about 50 of its certified lifeguards at pools for the city of Toledo, and Ms. Cajka said others are hired by area recreation departments or pools at clubs and private developments.

In addition to being a strong swimmer, certification requires a person to pass a course in first aid and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Mr. Lev said.

Ken Katafias, operations manager for the Sylvania Recreation Corporation, said his operation usually hires about 30 lifeguards during the summer.

About 18 lifeguards work at the quarry at Centennial Terrace, and about 12 are at Sylvania's Plummer Pool.

He said he is aware of shortages in other areas, but not locally, and he added that more than half of Sylvania's lifeguards are retained for succeeding years.

He said that in the past, inspectors have surreptitiously videotaped lifeguards to critique their work.

“It can seem simple: lifeguards have to stay alert and a tape might show that a guard has kept his attention at one point unnecessarily for maybe 30 seconds, when the guard should be continually scanning,” an area unless it appears that there is a potentially dangerous situation, he said.

Mr. Lev cautioned that it is not a simple job.

“A lot of people think it's just sitting around, getting a tan, and looking at all the cute girls or boys. You have to be intelligent, alert, and able to concentrate.

“Creating a safe environment for people to enjoy swimming isn't just serious to us, it is sacrosanct,” Mr. Lev said.

He added that 60 lifeguards are employed at Bowman to allow lifeguards to shift positions, from sitting on the high chairs, to roaming the deck, to taking a break, allowing all of the guards to stay fresh.

The YMCA also operates the outdoor pool at the Jewish Community Center with 33 lifeguards. Others are employed at the YMCA outdoor facility in the 2900 block of Pickle Road, and at their indoor pools.

Mary Dixon, Toledo's commissioner of recreation, said local starting pay is $6 an hour for lifeguards, and $7.30 for those with the advanced training of a water-safety instructor.

Ms. Dixon said Toledo's wages are competitive with the local market for lifeguards.

Most reports of too few lifeguards come from the East Coast, where demands on lifeguards can be greater because of the special dangers, such as undertows, which oceans can present.

Pay for lifeguards on the coast of Maine, for instance, is $8.57 per hour.

The southern portion of the West Coast, where employment can be year-round and the pay can go to $20 an hour, generally has enough lifeguards.



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