Tucson to open 20 pools this summer

City hires more than 250 lifeguards
Lifeguard training: Tucson see increase in hires
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 8:07 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - With many city pools set to open in the coming days, Tucson is training this year’s lifeguards.

“The goal is to open all 20 pools this summer. Right now, we’re scheduled to open all 20 pools,” said TJ Johnson, aquatics manager for Tucson Parks and Recreation.

This year, planning was key in hiring more than 250 lifeguards. At this time last year, only 82 lifeguards had gone through screenings. This meant only eight pools were able to open.

“I think the important thing they did was they started all year-round hiring. So they didn’t wait until the summer started. ... So, I think they got a good head jump on it,” Johnson said.

Last year, 13 News reported that the city increased their pay to get more people in the door. And that continues this year at more than $16.75 an hour.

“Yeah, they still make very good money for what they’re doing,” Johnson said.

The large number of hires has allowed the city to extend current services and start new programs.

“We’re going to try to expand swimming lesson programs at every single pool. We’re now doing Starfish instead of the American Red Cross. And I’m impressed with what we’ve been able to do with that already,” Johnson said. “So it’s not just opening the pools but also offering more programming and as much programming as we can.”

All the lifeguards are being trained in many areas, with the goal of retaining them for next year.

“How to scan, and we treat scanning so you’re not just sitting on a chair, staring aimlessly that you’re searching for things that don’t look right. We do training where we do spinal extractions, we’ll do passive victim extractions,” Johnson said. “How to save someone who’s an active victim and how to get them out of the water. And 99% of the time, it’s a little kid that got a little too far out.”

Johnson said he will also be monitoring them more to ensure they are performing the best they can.

“We’re adding internal audits. So I’m going to show up at a pool with a video camera and film the guards for a rotation and while they’re on stand and use it as a learning opportunity so that we know that they’re on point all the time,” Johnson said.

Johnson also added that there are steps the community can take to make the lifeguards’ jobs easier.

“Every pool has a lot of experience. ... If they asked you to do something, it’s not because they don’t want you to have fun or being mean. They just are there to protect your safety and that we have rules,” Johnson said.

A full list of all the pool programs being offered by the Parks and Recreation department this summer can be found here.

This year’s summer pool schedule will run from May 28 through July 31.