Last Wednesday was rainy and overcast before the front came in. There was some sea fog, but not to the point that it severely limited visibility. Lt. Kirwin and Sgt. Buck slipped down to the water and set a mannequin in the water. Buck donned a wetsuit, booties, and gloves and swam out.
Supervisors Lucero and Knight staged at the entrance to Stewart Beach in a rescue truck. They knew they were going to respond to a scenario but didn’t know what it would be. Then, when everything and everyone was in position, they received the call. The drill was a few people missing in the water, resulting from an accident. They had to race down to the Headquarters, retrieve a jet ski, launch it, and search for the missing swimmers. One of them, played by Buck, was ok with some minor issues. Another was a partially submerged victim that had to be removed from the water, assessed, and ultimately CPR needed to be performed.
This was just one of several scenarios we’ve been running, getting the crew to be razor sharp for the opening of the beach season. Working in pairs or small groups, some staff members participate in scenarios, while others complete work on towers, signs, complete leadership, resiliency, or intercultural competency training in the office, or work patrolling the beaches.
Once the seasonal lifeguards return in March, they too will participate in similar activities, but not to the extent of the full-time staff members. Our full-time staff make up the vast majority of the Supervisors, are all Emergency Medical Technicians and have quite a bit of additional training that our seasonal Lifeguards aren’t required to have, such as Swiftwater Technician certification, National Incident Management System training, Tourism Ambassador certification, and some are Peace Officers. They are also the teachers and instructors for the seasonal staff and teach everything from Red Cross Emergency Response to Personal Rescue Watercraft Operator instruction.
There are benefits to having our year-round crew trained up in time to teach the guards and being ready to respond to a myriad of emergencies. It’s also good to have them be very used to the day-to-day conditions, so when they jump in the cold water to make a rescue they know what to expect and are comfortable in cold water, limited visibility, and big surf. We want to be comfortable and prepared for all kind of conditions so they can focus on problem solving in difficult rescue situations. But it’s also important that they problem solve together.
Modern professional lifesaving has changed significantly in the past few decades. The basic techniques of saving someone are very similar to when lifesaving took off in the early 1900’s as a result of a boom in recreational swimming that resulted from a growth in a leisure class. The big difference is an emphasis on teamwork. What used to be “One beach one lifeguard”, in the immortal words of Leroy Colombo, has now morphed into “We’re only as strong as our weakest link”.