Spring Break started with a bang and ended with a whimper. That first weekend was scary from our perspective! Massive crowds, lots of current and waves, warm air and water, and sparse lifeguard coverage kept us moving fast, as we raced from hot spot to hot spot to keep people away from the rip currents near the jetties.
Early Saturday morning I called the police and fire departments for some help and they ran patrols both days on the seawall to help us spot trouble developing. Its good to have friends. Because of their efforts, some really hard work by the Beach Patrol staff, and a bit of luck we got through the first weekend. Then it got cold and most of the tourists that were all over the beach went to the other island attractions and stayed there for the rest of the week through last weekend.
Even with the cold weather, our stats over Spring Break were impressive, especially when considering most of the numbers happened over a three day period. I usually give a general overview when giving stats, but its interesting to see the specifics:
We moved 9,605 people from danger- mostly away from the rocks. We enforced park rules or city ordinances 84 times (11 of these were vehicles driving illegally on the beach), and Park Security did this 187 times (they only worked the first weekend). We responded to 18 medical calls, 7 of them were serious enough to be transported to the hospital. We responded to one possible drowning and made 4 rescues. We logged giving tourist information 137 times (this stat is notoriously lower than the reality of how many tourists we have direct contact with). We reunited a couple of lost kids with their parents and gave 1,344 water safety talks.
Those numbers are a good reflection of how much work we do. But when compared to the summertime numbers we accumulate when all 34 lifeguard towers are staffed and our trucks cover the entire beachfront, they’re pretty small. Just to give a general idea, in an average year we routinely move between 300,000 and 500,000 people from dangerous areas, make 3-4,000 enforcements, do around 30,000 water safety talk contacts, etc. The numbers are really staggering and show how much preventative work our lifeguards do. If you think about it, we do most of the preventative actions over a 9-month period, 7 of which we have guards in towers and the other two we’re working out of trucks only. That math comes out to just under 1,500 swimmers moved per day, or 12,500 preventative actions per lifeguard tower per season.
Those numbers are pretty overwhelming when you think what would happen if we weren’t there during the critical times and places to move people away from potentially lethal rip currents. It explains why our recent tryouts and academy that only produced three graduates terrified our staff.
It explains why we are such fanatics about all things that make up the complicated beach safety defense web.