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City relies on mobile lifeguard units while short-staffed

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 19:55:00-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two swimmers in two weeks have now been swept away while swimming on Corpus Christi beaches; both resulting in their deaths. People usually turn to lifeguards in these situations.

However, on Wednesday when a swimmer was pulled to shore, it was the mobile lifeguards that had to attend to the emergency. They’re the lifeguards tasked with being vigilant while riding around in trucks on the beaches. According to the city and bystanders there wasn't a lifeguard in the nearby tower.

For Corpus Christi lifeguards, the pressure may be on, but they’re short-staffed.

Assistant City Manager Neiman Young said there are currently 16 open spots for a city lifeguard. They can employ 44 people. Trying to recruit more lifeguards has been tough for the city, and Young said one reason is pay. A beginning lifeguard earns $10.50 per hour, and more experience equals more pay.

“We’re doing a pay survey where human resources department, they came back with recommendations that we’re going to look at addressing," Young said. "The starting pay for lifeguards and we think that will be one key to the solution.”

The other issue is competition.

“Since the water parks have reopened we’re basically fighting for the same resource pool, young talent," Young continued. "And naturally, some people are willing to opt for serving the water parks because it takes that danger element (of open sea) out of it.”

Sometimes it’s just the physical component of being a lifeguard on the Gulf of Mexico that’s a deterrent.

“I think that the most concerning part for many of our people applying for the job is the physical portion," Young said. "And the biggest challenge is being able to swim in open seas and then there’s a standard for the pools, I mean swimming in the pool. And basically, that standard is a requirement that an individual will be able to, not only swim 500 meters, but they’ll have to swim 500 meters in 15 minutes.”

With fewer lifeguards, you won’t see one at every tower on the beaches. Young said they have to be strategically placed in high incident areas. But the emphasis lies on the mobile lifeguard units while short-handed.

“Flexibility and the more robust response is in the mobile lifeguard system," he said. "We are able to shift those mobile lifeguards in according with the needs or incidents that are taking place on the beaches. So, we always take a look at where the high case of incidents taking place and we shift those lifeguards, the mobile lifeguards to those areas.”

You may have only heard about instances on the beaches when a death occurs or there’s serious injury, but Young says there's more good than bad.

“Its the good news stories that don’t get told, but those guys are out there working every day saving lives and trying to protect our citizens as much as we can.”

Young said in the last few days two swimmers were rescued by lifeguards.

“There (were) two individuals that were saved," Young said. "One was a female that was a near drowning. She called for help and a lifeguard was able to get out there into the open seas, retrieve her and bring her back to the beach. And then we had a similar incident, but it was with an older gentleman in the water. And again, those guys being the heroes that they are got out into open seas and were able to save lives.”

While those lifeguards hold down the fort, the city looks for ways to bring in new talent. Young said they are participating at job fairs most recently at La Palmera Mall.

“We’re going to be stepping up our recruiting efforts and turning, basically, every city event into a recruiting effort. To pursue more talent in our lifeguard division for parks and recreation department,” said Young.

To become a lifeguard you can apply on the city website. You can also call the beach operations department at 361-826-3469.