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Officials: New York state, especially Long Island, is desperate for new lifeguards

Long Island beaches hoping to avoid lifeguard shortage
Long Island beaches hoping to avoid lifeguard shortage 02:31

JONES BEACH, N.Y. -- Long Island's popular beaches are hoping to avoid a lifeguard shortage this summer, a shortage that is sweeping the nation.

Pay increases, perks, and even signing bonuses are being offered to would-be lifeguards, hoping to lure teenagers and even senior citizens who love to swim.

The summer is all about making a splash, but will the fun fun be threatened? Lifeguards are in short supply.

"According to the CDC, about 8,000 Americans drown each year," said Motti Eliyahu, CEO of Lifeguard Training New York.

READ MORELifeguard shortage may force half of public pools in U.S. to close or limit hours

Eliyahu is now reaching out to retirees to attend his classes to become certified.

"Senior citizens, the 50, 60 and up, they come on time. They know their responsibilities. They're not on the phone. They're not chatting," Eliyahu said.

"I think it's fine if they are in good shape and have good skills," one older Long Islander said.

"The responsibility is too overwhelming," another said.

Many pools and beaches in our area will accept trained, certified lifeguards as old as 75 and as young as 15. They are anticipating August, when they may again be forced to reduce hours or close the season early when lifeguards return to college.

"We need statewide just over 1,000 lifeguards and here on Long Island we need about 500 lifeguards," New York State Parks Long Island Regional Director George Gorman said.

READ MORENew York City Council bills look to address need for more public swimming pools

State parks on Long Island need to hire 75 new applicants and the testing is Sunday.

"There is a test indoors, but they will also be coming right here to Jones Beach, the Atlantic Ocean, to do a test there," Gorman said.

And drones will soon be a part of the training.

One big enticement is starting pay is up. Last summer, it was $18 per hour, but now it's $22, with promised raises after two years of 5 to 30%.

Private beaches and pools pay more.

"The pool parties, a minimum $75 dollars an hour," Eliyahu said.

At any age, a lifeguard's work is gratifying.

"In my life, I've done multiple rescues. It does something to you inside," Kevin Gersh said.

"Good, altruistic feeling that lifeguards have that is nourishing the heart," Michael Simao added.

Lifeguarding is more than just a routine summer job.

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