Fewer active rescue towers in Volusia County due to lack of staff

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Florida. – The Volusia County Beach Patrol is looking for a solution to a shortage of staff.

Deputy Chief Tammy Malfurs of the Volusia County Beach Patrol said if conditions were ideal, they would have about 300 active lifeguards. They currently have about 130 full-time and part-time personnel on patrol.

“[It’s been] difficult for working employees because we are doing the same amount of work with fewer people,” she said.

Due to a shortage, they do not have enough resources to have lifeguards on all towers. Malfurs said they consider factors such as crowd size, water conditions and rip current risk to determine which towers will be active. Beach lovers are encouraged to swim alongside the active ones.

“When you come to the beach, take personal responsibility,” she added. “Find out where these lifeguard towers are before you come for the day.”

There are several factors that contribute to the shortage, and Malfurs said the demands are too high for many. There are high standards for lifeguards on patrol and this is the standard that must be met to save lives.

“[There are] other employment opportunities that may be more flexible and less demanding,” she added.

In an attempt to allay these fears, the department is offering a salary supplement in addition to the base salary. The pay rate for part-time lifeguards is about $15 an hour. For full-time positions, it ranges from $36,000 to $60,000.

Despite financial incentives, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood expressed concern about filling vacancies to capacity.

“Rescuers are really great athletes. They are really professional athletes and they are well trained,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to do that.”

He likened the shortage to what many law enforcement agencies are seeing across the county. Both Chitwood and Malfurs emphasize the importance of swimming in front of the towers when you visit the beaches. More information on the location of lifeguards can be found on the Volusia Beaches mobile app.

Visit the Volusia County website to learn more about lifeguard positions.

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