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Lifeguards dry up ahead of the holiday weekend, as community pools push safety

Wyatt Werneth with the American Lifeguard Association said lifeguard associations across the country are working to increase pay and add incentives.

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Lather on the sunscreen and snap those life jackets into place. Families are about to head to the water for the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend, but the sounds of fun under the summer sun are met with the push for safety.

"Given that there’s less staff, people that are working have to work a lot more," lifeguard William Potts said.

This is Potts's third summer with Carolina Pool Management. He said he loves his job, but the national lifeguard shortage has things running not so swimmingly. 

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"Last year we had about six people throughout the entire summer working," Potts said. "This year it was me and another one of the coworkers that ended up coming back here and they eventually quit.”  

He said ultimately that's fewer people to have a second set of eyes on your little ones. 

“I have had so many people ask me, 'Where are the lifeguards, what are you doing?'" Potts said.

Wyatt Werneth with the American Lifeguard Association said the shortage comes down to a few factors. 

"They're looking at competing with the retail stores and restaurants in salaries," Werneth said.

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In the meantime, some pools have had to adapt like the one Potts works at. Originally you could be 14 years old and come with a sibling. Now since the shortage and lack of staff, the age requirement has been increased to 18. He said he turns away dozens daily for being too young. 

Werneth told WCNC Charlotte that lifeguard associations across the country are working to increase pay and add incentives for those already on the job.

Contact Austin Walker at awalker@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. 

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