Leroy Colombo, Galvestonian lifeguard that still holds the Guiness Book World Record for most saves, used to have an expression, “One Beach One Lifeguard”.  He was a hero and a man of his time.  Now, it’s important that modern lifesaving, and public safety in general, is based on the concept that we are a team.  A chain that relies on all its links to accomplish the goal.

Many of the incidents that occur along the beachfront involve multi-agency responses where several teams work together to help people, save lives, or mitigate risk in other ways.  Many incidents we work also involve the Galveston Fire Department, Galveston EMS, Jamaica Beach Fire and Rescue, and Galveston Police.  For many years now we’ve worked seamlessly together to deal with increasing demand for our services, and the public is much better for it.  The groups that respond regularly to these emergencies are some of the groups that comprise the Galveston Marine Response.

After Hurricane Ike, then Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas asked Chief Peter Davis and Fire Chief Mike Wisko to come up with a plan for how our first responders would deal with the next one.  After involving multiple people and agencies in the planning process we came up with the basic structure of the Galveston Marine Response (GMR) group.

GMR is a multi-agency response group comprised of Galveston Fire Department, Galveston Police Marine Division, Galveston Island Beach Patrol, Jamaica Beach Fire Rescue, and Galveston EMS, which falls under the office of the Galveston Emergency Management.  To more effectively deal with aquatic emergencies, these groups have pooled existing resources and operate under a set of minimum standards team members along with requirements for initial and recurrent training.  The response is geared to a range of water-related emergencies from spot flooding and coordinated response to swimming or boating accidents to hurricane response.

When deployed for major disasters, each team can work autonomously in groups of 4-5.  Team members with higher levels of water skill are deployed in the water and those with other skill sets will remain on shore as support personnel.  Teams consist of elements ranging from water rescue, boat operations, medical response, security, and communications.  During a large-scale flooding event, such as a hurricane, GMR will be deployed during the duration of the event and all teams and team members will be able to work independently from their respective agencies.  They may work during times when the rest of their agency’s employees have already sought shelter.  When the GMR is deactivated, team members will be returned to their normal duties.

The cool thing is that once we created this structure, we started working way more effectively together on the myriad of interagency responses we do all the time.  Shared communication and understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations is the key.

We are so grateful to all the people and agencies involved in GMR!