March 15, 2023
Philadelphia hopes to get ahead of chronic staffing issues at public pools in 2023, expanding lifeguard training hours and locations in the weeks and months ahead.
In anticipation of the summer swimming season, the city is looking to hire 400 lifeguards. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is now offering free lifeguard training seven days a week with scheduled hours at three city pools:
• Abraham Lincoln High School, 3201 Ryan Ave.: Mondays through Fridays from 4:30-8:30 p.m.
• Friends Select School, 17th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30-4:30 p.m.
• St. Joseph's Preparatory School: 1733 West Girard Ave.: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Last year, the city opened only 50 of its 65 public pools, some of which closed due to understaffing. The city only managed to hire 196 certified lifeguards in 2022, part of a broader national shortage of lifeguards at pools and beaches in the U.S.
The shortage led to some unusual scenarios, like 70-year-old grandmother Robin Borlandoe coming out of retirement to return to the lifeguard job she held when she was 16. She failed her first training certification, but passed another attempt and worked last year at Mill Creek Playground in West Philly.
Rather than scramble for lifeguards again this year, Parks & Recreation has taken steps to make the job more attractive to young people. The city is offering $1,000 bonuses to new lifeguards who apply by April 1 and $500 bonuses to those who apply by May 15. For trainees between 16-24 years old, the $110 certification fee will be waived.
The screening test for lifeguards requires trainees to complete the following tests:
• Swim 300 yards non-stop (12 laps of freestyle or breaststroke). This is not a timed swim, but trainees must continuously swim the 12 lengths and not stop, or they will need to start over.
• Tread water for two minutes using legs only.
• Retrieve a 10-pound brick from a deep well, return to the surface and swim 20 yards back to the starting point with the brick, using only legs. The brick must be held out of the water with both hands. This test must completed within one minute and 40 seconds.
Last month, Parks & Recreation held a polar plunge-style Philly Phreeze event at Fairmount Park's Kelly Pool to raise money that will the support lifeguard bonuses and other pool programming and maintenance. The event raised more than $65,000 of the city's $200,000 goal and donations are still being accepted.
“Learning to swim is a life lesson, and a life saving lesson,” water safety instructor Thelma Nesbitt said. “Our city lifeguards are heroes. They save lives on the pool deck and in the shallow end teaching the next generation how to swim.”
Potential lifeguards can now sign up for a screening test and learn more about the job before filling out an application. City pools typically open to the public around the middle of June.