Shortage of lifeguards Only 110 instead of 200 temporary lifeguards on duty at Bonn's open-air swimming pools

Bonn · From 4 July, the Ennertbad and Hardtbergbad pools will no longer be open for early morning swimming. The City of Bonn does not have enough lifeguards to open all outdoor pools from 6.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

  Looking through a lifebuoy into the Friesdorf open-air swimming pool, which will not open at all this summer. There is a shortage of staff at the other pools.

Looking through a lifebuoy into the Friesdorf open-air swimming pool, which will not open at all this summer. There is a shortage of staff at the other pools.

Foto: FRIESE

There is a serious shortage of staff: about 200 lifeguards would be needed for a regular outdoor pool season, but only 110 are available for the four open outdoor pools in Bonn. This has led to the sports and baths department deciding to discontinue early morning swimming in the Ennertbad and Hardtbergbad as of Monday.

It’s a decision that has been making waves among committed early swimmers since the news broke on Thursday. "It's an outrage that with the decreasing number of options in Bonn, early morning swimming is now being cancelled in one of the few accessible pools,” a wheelchair user who uses the Hardtbergbad before work wrote to the GA.

"The problems have intensified in recent years," says Elke Palm, deputy head of the Sports and Baths Office. In a nutshell: There simply aren't enough life-saving temps applying to work at the poolside. And those who are on the list often only have a few hours a week because of tightly scheduled studies or other jobs. Even the short-term closure of the leaking Friesdorf outdoor pool did not provide enough relief.

For many temporary staff, the deadlines for their first aid courses have expired.

In addition, during the pandemic, the DLRG silver life-saving certificates and the first-aid course, both of which must not be older than two years, expired for some of the temporary staff. The city had therefore offered several weekend refresher courses before the start of the season. Still, there are not enough lifeguards. "Maybe it's easier for some of them to go and work as a waiter," Palm suspects.

14.30 Euro per hour is what a temp with rescue skills earns at the city. The sports and baths department is still hiring people over 18 who meet the requirements during the season. "We have now pulled the emergency brake for the time being so that we can plan the shifts differently. If you've been standing in the sun for a few hours at over 30 degrees, you have to be able to take a break, even if the pool is full," says Palm. Safety has top priority.

From Monday, early swimmers will have to switch to the Römerbad in the north of Bonn and the Rüngsdorfer Freibad in the south. Both pools will continue to be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

"The Coronavirus pandemic with the resulting long closures of the swimming pools was of course not helpful for the training of lifeguards," says Sebastian Görgen, deputy head of communications at the DLRG Bonn. We can only speculate about what ultimately motivates young people to choose a part-time job as a lifeguard or to do something completely different, perhaps with less responsibility.

Temporary lifeguards are also on duty at the North Sea and Baltic Sea

In Germany, lifeguarding is not usually a profession. Temporary staff are employed both on the beaches of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and in local swimming pools. "In addition, there are the so-called specialists for pool operation (Fachangestellten für Bäderbetrieb). This vocational profession also covers the entire technical area of a swimming pool. There has been a nationwide shortage of skilled staff in this field for many years," Görgen explains.

He cannot say if DLRG rescuers might prefer to help out in holiday regions. A job on the coast is usually only remunerated with an expense allowance. "Here, the pay is certainly better in public baths," says Görgen.

(Original text: Bettina Köhl and Franziska Klaes; Translation: Jean Lennox)