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National lifeguard shortage affecting Oklahoma pools

Malaya Sadler / Unsplash

The summertime job is normally popular.

But a national shortage of lifeguards across the U.S. is affecting Oklahoma, too.

“We didn't used to have lifeguard issues, but after COVID, it seems to be a nationwide struggle almost,” said Robert Culverhouse, a spokesman for Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation.

Culverhouse said the city wants to have about 80 people working as lifeguards each summer. Right now, OKC has 44.

To get to that number has been a challenge, and the city has offered a handful of incentives like hiring and retention bonuses to work as a lifeguard.

And OKC isn’t alone. In late May, Tulsa announced it would only open two pools each day. The city said it only had 14 lifeguards total and needs 24 to fully staff the operation.

It’s unclear what pool closures and staffing issues will look like this summer. But Culverhouse said the city is anticipating a rise in demand closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“It's a very important position,” he said.

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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