Lifeguard staffing levels appear good at Jersey shore
As another summer brings another flock of tourists to Jersey beaches, the ever- present lifeguards are back to business again this year.
Most beach patrols contacted by NJ 1015.com said they have all of the lifeguards they need this season, although some won't be fully staffed for another few weeks.
"By July 1, we should be fully staffed. That is our target date," said Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol Chief Bud Johnson. "We opened up on Memorial Day weekend and we will gradually add staff as the summer goes on here."
And while staffing levels look good now, most shore lifeguard patrols agreed that the real challenge will come later in the summer when guards who are high school and college begin returning to school.
"At the beginning of the summer you have colder water, and you do not get the volume of people in the water at this time of year. So you can kind of deal with the short-staffing until we get everybody trained," Johnson said. "At the end of the year, when the water is warm and the crowds are still here, it becomes a bigger issue, and kids do start to leave here around the middle of August."
Johnson said that usually leaves them scrambling to cover the last few weeks of the season. He said it's pretty much a battle for all beach patrols up and down the Jersey coast.
Henry Cortacans has been operating a lifeguard training school in Lawrenceville for 20 years. Cortacans said he has noticed a correlation between the number of available lifeguard candidates and the economy. He said when a recession hits, the number of people available to take lifeguard training increases.
According to Cortacans, he saw an increase in trainees when a recession hit in the post-9/11 era in 2001-2002. He said there was also an increase in 2008, when the Great Recession slammed the economy.
Despite some of the staffing challenges, Tony Mehalic, a senior lifeguard with the Ocean City Beach Patrol, is ready to work. "I'm just looking forward to another great season here in Ocean City, New Jersey."