Some Beaches Might Go Unwatched This Summer

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Some Beaches May Lose Lifeguards

Hampton Has 13 Fewer Than Necessary

By Patrick Cronin

Herald Sunday, Sunday, May 24, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Herald Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

Hampton Beach Lifeguard Chris Shields of Hampton moves his orange chair to a better location on a packed beach in July 2008.
[Rich Beauchesne Courtesy Photo]

A shortage in qualified lifeguards this summer might mean some beaches in Hampton and North Beach will go unguarded this summer. "It has becoming increasingly difficult not only for Hampton but for beaches across the country to find qualified guards," said Jimmy Donahue, chief of the Hampton Beach Patrol. "I thought this year, with the way the economy is and with many people looking for work, that I would be swamped with candidates. It just isn't the case."

Donahue said he currently needs five additional guards to join 21 others already hired to staff Hampton Beach.

They need an additional eight guards if they want to staff North Beach this summer.

°It used to be the dream job of the summer," Donahue said. "Especially for athletes because you work out every single day for 45 minutes on the job."

Donahue said they have one more tryout scheduled for June 6.

After that they will decide whether to post signs at North Beach warning there are no guards on duty.

"Hopefully we will have a good turnout." Donahue said.

"I'm down 13 guards in all," Donahue said. "There is a possibility that for the first time we will not have any guards at North Beach, which is unheard of. It's a very popular beach."

The town beaches — Plaice Cove and Sun Valley — might also be without guards this summer.

Dyana Martin, director of the Hampton Recreation and Parks Department, said no one has applied for the six available positions.

"We are now planing to order signs stating there are no guards at the beach," Martin said. "If we can't get six guards, then we have no other choice."

This is the first year Martin had to look for guards to work the town beaches.

Previously the town paid the state to hire its guards but because the state is having its own problems with finding workers, it had to stop the practice.

Donahue, who is going into his 50th year as head of the guards, remembers the days when they would be inundated with applicants. One year, he said, 38 guards showed up to 1111 five available slots. "It hasn't been like that for the last six or seven years," Donahue said. "Each year it gets tougher. This is the worst, though" What has changed?

"I don't know," Donahue said.

While pay might have been an issue a couple years ago, Donahue said now they offer a competitive starting wage of $10.99 per hour and returning guards can make more depending how many years they have put in the job.

"It might be that there is a lot more to being a lifeguard at Hampton Beach than being a lifeguard just working at a pool," Donahue said. Lifeguards have a lot more to deal with than just the ocean. They deal with everything from missing kids to enforcing the many rules of the beach including no open containers of alcohol.

The other factor that might be holding people back from applying for the lifeguard jobs, said Donahue, is the necessary certification.

Those wanting to be a lifeguard must take an advanced lifesaving class that includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training.

The training can cost anywhere from $250 to $400, depending on the instructor.

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