PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is changing its lifeguard certification process with the hope that more candidates will apply.

The DEM said the changes will be made over the next two years.

This year, the DEM said lifeguards whose certifications expire on Sept. 30 will be exempt from taking a recertification test. The DEM will also be extending their certification expiration dates to June 15, 2023.

Those who are eligible for the expiration extension will be notified ahead of time.

Lifeguards with conditional certifications will need to take the August certification test, however, the DEM said they will only need to complete the endurance swim and will not need to demonstrate their rescue skills.

The DEM said certification tests for next year will begin in the spring. Lifeguards will be required to complete both the endurance swim and demonstrate their rescue skills at that time, though the endurance swim may be performed in a pool ahead of the test.

Next year, the DEM will alter the allowable endurance swim distance to 400 meters or 440 yards. The certification test hours will also be expanded to include later hours and weekend dates to better accommodate candidates’ schedules.

Candidates, as always, will need to bring all required forms and certifications to their test date. The DEM said all applicants must also register to take the test ahead of time.

The changes come amid an uptick in drownings and water rescues across the state. The DEM hopes the changes will increase the applicant pool, which would in turn keep state beaches fully staffed and swimmers safe.