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Being a lifeguard offers decent pay and sunshine, along with a lifetime of memories and opportunities perhaps to save someone's life, area parks officials say. Most lifeguards at area public pools are high school and college students, and they must be certified in lifeguarding, CPR and first aid. The search for qualified young people is on for summer 2014.
Burdette Park Director Steve Craig can vouch for lifeguards' importance, as well as the quality of the experience. He was a lifeguard at Burdette's Aquatic Center in his youth.
"We need all of them," Craig said. "Sixty is a good working number for us, because that's not burning the kids out â We can always use more lifeguards."
Burdette has the only pool operated by Vanderburgh County. The city of Evansville has seven neighborhood pools, and the largest, Hartke, requires about 35 lifeguards for a summer.
Mosby and Rochelle Landers pools need 18 to 20 lifeguards per pool, while Anthony Oates, Garvin, Helfrich and Lorraine pools use five to eight each. Those figures don't include pool managers, substitutes or cashiers.
Craig said the Evansville pools and Burdette Park will occasionally share lifeguards or lifeguard applicants, in case one local government has an excess and the other is coming up short. Local pools compete for business, Craig said, but in issues of safety and staffing, "We're all in this together."
The city pays $8 per hour for first-year lifeguards, $8.50 for returning lifeguards and $8.75 for water safety instructors, a position that requires an advanced level of training. Burdette Park pays $8 per hour.
Atkinson Park in Henderson, Ky., also has a consistent need for lifeguards, said Mark Simmons, Henderson's acting director of Parks and Recreation and, like Craig, an ex-lifeguard.
Henderson hires 12 lifeguards and two supervising guards to work a summer at Atkinson.
"The kids that do it need jobs, and every pool needs more lifeguards," Simmons said. "In the past we haven't had too much trouble (filling spots), but I like to get as many out there as I can." Henderson pays $7.50 an hour for first-year guards, although the rate goes up 25 cents for each subsequent year.
Simmons will teach a two-week lifeguarding course starting Monday at Henderson's YMCA. Red Cross chapters and other organizations offer the required training courses on a regular basis.
Craig said he typically relies on college students to work longer hours than his high school-aged lifeguards, who tend to reach a burn out phase when they approach 40 hours a week.
However, he said an abundance of high school students and local college students are needed in late summer, as students who attend colleges out-oftown head back to begin the new school year.
Officials with Evansville, Vanderburgh County's Burdette Park and Henderson all said they still need applicants for the summer. Evansville has already done one round of lifeguarding classes this year at Lloyd Pool on First Avenue; other classes will be in April at the same location.
In addition to lifeguards, Burdette Park also maintains an off-duty EMT or first responder at its pool whenever it is open. First responders are paid $8 an hour; EMTs get $8.50.
"We could still use some (lifeguards and other summer staff)," Craig said. "We're not where we want to be."
For information about lifeguard positions with city of Evansville pools this summer, call the Parks & Recreation Department at 812-435-6141; for Vanderburgh County's Burdette Park, call 812-435-5602; and for Henderson's Atkinson Park, call 270-831-1274.