The City of Dawson Creek says it's experiencing a lifeguard shortage this summer, and exploring options to bring up staffing levels to needed demand.
Reduced hours may have to put in place if additional lifeguards aren’t found. Mayor Dale Bumstead says recruits typically come from the community, youth who took part in various swim programs as teens, and then training to be lifeguards during their college and university years.
“Traditionally, you get these young folks that go through the SEALS swim club, becoming very prolific swimmers and they take all of the Red Cross Training to become a lifeguard,” he said. “As they move on and go to university, we tend to lose them.”
He added the Kenn Borek Aquatic Centre is currently staffed with eight or nine guards, but much more are needed to keep the pool running.
“We can’t operate the pool and provide our swim lessons and red cross swim lessons without these fully trained instructors and life guards,” said Bumstead.
Two guards are needed per shift, with two shifts making up the day and night hours, five days a week, he noted.
Bumstead says the COVID-19 pandemic was also responsible for the loss of some staff, as the facility was closed for upwards of six to eight months. It has since reopened, following provincial health orders and guidelines.
“We lost some staff as a result of that, so now we’re in this timeframe where we’re trying to attract more people into the career of a lifeguard and instructor,” he said. “It’s a phenomenon that all of us go through, it’s such a unique skill that you need to have to be a trained lifeguard.”
One potential solution could be to partner with School District 59 or Northern Lights College, says Bumstead, copying a similar approach used in Fort St John.
“I really like that model. And to me, we’re going to try and explore that a little bit. Work with the school district or potentially even Northern Light College,” he said, noting credits could be offered to students willing to take on the training.
Bumstead added the pool is important to Mile Zero citizens, and says the city will continue working to remedy the situation.
“It’s a big deal, and we’re working away at it because we’ve got a huge investment in a pool and it’s a really significant recreation facility that’s used in our community,” he said, noting anyone with an interest in life-guarding should reach out to the city.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News