Lifeguard shortage is bad news for summer

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 05/28/2021, 3:01 PM
Edited: 05/29/2021, 2:26 AM

(TULSA, Okla.) “Everybody out of the pool!” 

Lifeguards are the heroes of summer. Many pools cannot open without them and some, like Tulsa Parks community pools, have already had to push back their opening days due to the shortage. 

“There is a shortage of lifeguards going into every swim season, as long as I can remember for the past 10 years,” Katie Dalrymple, owner of Tulsa Lifeguard Pro told VNN. “And it seems like it's kind of getting worse and worse every year, but this year, especially because of COVID last year.” 

People are getting vaccinated and getting back out in the public. But without more lifeguards, the amount of people able to swim will still be limited. 

Tulsa Parks announced the delay for their community pools on Tuesday, pushing their opening day back to June 7. They said they need 36 lifeguards on their team to be considered fully staffed. At last count, they had five. 

Until they can find more, they said they cannot open all four pools at once. Instead, teams of lifeguards will travel between pools throughout the week. And some areas and amenities may be closed or unavailable at certain times. 

On Wednesday, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum approved a $150 signing bonus at the end of the first week of lifeguard employment and an additional $250 at the end of the season as new hire incentives. 

Dalrymple said she has been teaching swimming since she was 18 years old. Some of the students she taught as babies are now in her lifeguard certification courses.

“It’s a big deal and it's a big responsibility,” Dalrymple said. “The training is not easy. These guards do hard work, and they have to be really smart and really on it, so it's a big deal.” 

“Some of the pools will just open with not as many lifeguards, and it's an unsafe situation. And then other pools just won't open at all, or they'll go open for less time.” 

And it is not just public pools that need lifeguards. Dalrymple said any time a lot of people are swimming in a pool, a lifeguard should be present. And she will gladly put you in touch with one for your next private pool party. 

“Swimming pool parties where there are little kids present are one of the top places where drowning incidents occur, those backyard swimming pool parties,” Dalrymple said. “So, if we can have a lifeguard there, why aren't we doing it?” 

Dalrymple said she is also focused on bridging the knowledge gap between lifeguards and management. That is why she encourages pool managers to come audit her training courses for free, and why they offer safety and risk management consultations for facilities. 

“Number one, you'll see that the pools where this is happening, where management hasn't gone through a lifeguard course themselves, you'll see that they don't have the right equipment,” Dalrymple said. “My lifeguards are out here training with back boards, with AEDs. With bag valve masks, with rescue, breathing barriers, and they're going to go out and work for these community pools who maybe have none of that equipment. Which they need in order to keep themselves safe and perform an appropriate rescue.” 

It is clear Dalrymple is passionate about water safety. 

She also believes no one is exempt from aquatic related injury or drowning. In addition to recommending trained lifeguards for every private pool party, she said every child needs swim lessons and every adult should undergo CPR training. 

For more information about Tulsa Lifeguard Pro, visit 

To apply for a lifeguard position with Tulsa Parks, call Nick Pond at (918)596-2526 or email 


Ann Marie Worthley
05/30/2021, 2:10 PM

Great story!!