DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The American Red Cross said there is a national shortage of lifeguards that could postpone when pool facilities open this summer.

“It’s been a problem for years – mainly about pay – they don’t get paid much so it’s a big problem,” said American Red Cross trainer Lieneke Keihl.

Keihl has been an American Red Cross trainer since the 1990’s and said she’s never seen a lifeguard shortage this severe before.

“I think lifeguards are underappreciated, it doesn’t look like they work very hard, they sit in their chairs, twirl their whistles and get sun tanned,” said Keihl. “People don’t appreciate how much training goes into becoming a lifeguard.”

Keihl said pool facilities closed early or changed their operating hours due to the pandemic, but also due to limited staff – including lifeguards. Ian Leighninger swam competitively in college and has been a certified lifeguard for six years. He said if a pool isn’t properly staffed, there’s certainly a concern.

“I think it’s definitely a concern with anything, we want to have proper safety in place and if we don’t have enough lifeguards that can’t happen,” said Leighninger.

Keihl says having fully-trained lifeguards is always a priority for pool safety just in case accidents were to happen.

“If a good guard is up there and they’re doing their job, there shouldn’t be any incidents,” said Keihl. “The worst thing that a lifeguard does is blow their whistle and tell kids to stop running.”

To enter the American Red Cross’s training program, candidates must be at least 15 years old by the course completion date and pass a swimming pre-test to enroll.