Spring has Sprung!

One week from today the Spring Break Crowd will be arriving. But, in case you didn’t notice, no one notified the tourists or locals that the beach season hasn’t officially started yet. The past few weekends have seen big crowds on the seawall and some brave souls have already been getting in the water for brief amounts of time.

It’s weird when you think about how things have changed over time. Although we used to see big Spring Break crowds in the 80s and early 90s, you really didn’t see much beach activity on in the early spring aside from that. And the beaches used to pretty much shut down once October hit. Now we consistently seen decent beach crowds all but two months out of the year. We’ve even dedicated at least one lifeguard mobile patrol starting in February and ending the first of December. They’re actually moving people away from the dangerous areas by the rocks and making the occasional rescue during those previously cold months. Galveston has basically turned into a year round resort. With the growth rate in the Houston area and elsewhere coupled with what is now a clear difference in average temperatures, we can expect this trend to continue, provided we continue to make sure the experience our guests receive is a safe, positive, and memorable one.

Next Saturday, March 12th, we’ll have our first lifeguard tryouts and lifeguard academy of the year. Information can be found on our website if you know anyone that’s interested. The 9 day academy is intense, and many of our potential guards who are students don’t want to “give up” their spring break. But for those who have the right stuff and are committed, it’s a very rewarding experience. Transforming people into beach guards in such a short time is painful, but when they come out on the other side they have all the tools they need to join the team that comprises Galveston’s designated lifeguard service.

The 12th is also the first day for the beach parks to open. The park staff also has quite a bit of training to go through before they’re ready to meet the onslaught of tourists. The Beach Patrol teaches CPR and First Aid to them, as well as the other Park Board employees that work with the public. They also go through a course to become Certified Tourist Ambassadors, so they are not only customer friendly, but know enough about the island to answer basically any question.

So it’s time to get out there and have some fun! But remember to swim near a lifeguard, follow the recommendations of signs and flags, avoid swimming near groins, piers, or the ends of the island, and take precautions for the heat and sun. And remember to use good common sense and keep an eye on friends and family. You’re the first line of defense. The lifeguards provide an extra layer of protection if you miss anything.

See you on the beach!


Heroes Around Us

Tuesday night a call dropped in the evening. The original version was a 911 call and was that there was a suicidal person that jumped off the causeway. The caller wasn’t specific about the exact area. The dispatchers called Fire, EMS, Police, and Beach Patrol (Galveston Marine Response) who all headed that way. Fire and Police grabbed their boats and we brought a jet ski and headed to Payco Marina at the base of the causeway. One of the fire trucks went to the top of the causeway to get an aerial view.

New information came in that the incident involved a car being driven into the water. Nobody found anything during an initial search. Then, another person reported that the event actually happened at the Texas City “Y” area and wasn’t in Galveston at all. Finally, everyone got confirmation there was a car in the water at the base of the north side of the railroad bridge. The Fire Department made the area first and reported that there wasn’t anyone in the water.

We all deal with many calls of this type throughout the year. The dispatchers do an excellent job of sorting through varied and sometimes conflicting reports and getting the pertinent information to the first responder agencies. But many times very different information comes in from different sources. Well meaning people aren’t aware of where they are when they see an event. It’s also not uncommon for people to call in an “emergency” as a hoax and sit and watch from somewhere nearby as we all scramble around trying to save lives. Tuesday night was an example of how professionally and unemotionally our local heroes work a call, putting aside emotions that could interfere with clear decision making. Trying to focus on that person in need and the shortest path to helping him/her, as opposed to letting ego or frustration interfere with the process.

You see these heroes every day and don’t realize it. Our military, police, fire, lifeguards, EMS, medical personnel, etc live among us. When someone chokes on food in a restaurant they are the person who calmly puts down their fork, walks over, and calmly clears the airway. When you see a wreck, they are the person who puts aside their own needs, stops their car, and helps.

There are many opportunities to join their ranks. One that’s coming up soon is our spring Lifeguard Academy which starts March 12th and finishes March 20th. There is another one in May. Those who pass the swim, interview, and drug screen will go through an intense experience that includes a high level of medical training, water rescue techniques, lifeguard training, tourist relations, surf swimming techniques, and a whole lot of physical training. For the few that pass through this crucible, some will work a season and others may make it a lifetime. But they join the ranks of our first responders permanently.

The United States Lifesaving Association has a slogan:

“Lifeguards for Life”