Rhode Island sees 71% spike in lifeguards since April from new incentives

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management credited new incentives offered for roughly 71% spike in lifeguard staffing.

According to the DEM, there are 111 lifeguards staffed for the summer. The department reported only 34 lifeguards were on hand for the summer in late April.

The incentives by the state to compete with private organizations include a $500 signing bonus and $500 retention bonus. Lifeguards are paid roughly $16 an hour.

“The incentive policy is really helping us there is no question about it,” said Michael Healey, a representative of the department.

The 111 lifeguards available meet the basic requirements, although DEM targets 150 staffed each summer.

While adequately staffed, there could be restrictions for beachgoers if numbers decline.

Healey added, “If we didn’t have enough lifeguards or as many lifeguards as we want, we would shrink the swim area that lifeguard would be responsible in overseeing.”

He said where there’s no lifeguards, a sign will be posted that reads, “No Lifeguards on Duty.” They will also announce it over the facility’s PA system with the message that swimmers will  be swimming at their own risk.

Ahead of the Fourth of July weekend and majority of the summer season, Rhode Island reminded beachgoers that their safety is in their own hands.

Healey finished, “Of course our lifeguards are there. They are in the chairs, they are ready to make rescues. They make rescues all the time. But safety really starts within your family unit and we encourage parents to be adults and make good decisions.”

DEM said they are still accepting new lifeguard applicants.

Healey said lifeguards will be at all major surf beaches, plus Charlestown Breachway and Lincoln Woods.

The DEM said it has no lifeguards to cover East Beach, Fort Adams, Burlingame picnic area, George Washington Campground, or Pulaski State Park.

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