NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - The red flag flies in New Smyrna Beach with the risk of rip currents high, but the numbers for lifeguard staff are low.
"We went to Cocoa Beach two weeks ago, and I saw that there wasn’t anyone at the lifeguard tower," said Angie Sath, of Orlando.
Officials in Volusia County say they’re suffering from a lifeguard shortage seen right now across the country.
"We’re not sure exactly the reason behind it but like everywhere else, everyone’s having trouble hiring people right now," said Volusia Co. Beach Safety Capt. Tammy Malphurs.
To combat that, Volusia County Beaches is offering $500 bonuses to returning lifeguards and new recruits who are willing to work a certain number of weekends and holidays. There are 200 lifeguards right now covering the 47 miles of beach in Volusia County, but only 34 new recruits. Officials would like to double that number.
"If there’s a tower that may have been open last year at this time, it may not be open this year just because of the shortage."
That’s concerning to beach goers.
"There’s a lot of people out there that don’t know how to swim, and we need lifeguards," said Beth Nicholas, who was visiting from Kentucky.
"I actually feel more comfortable when lifeguards are around because I personally don’t know how to swim so if something was going to happen, I want to be safe," said Sath.
That’s why beach officials urge people to download the Volusia County Beaches app to locate the nearest lifeguard towers and swim there. Volusia County is hiring lifeguards year-round with an upcoming recruit class starting June 13th. Pay starts at $13.24 an hour.