Bill to protect lifeguards on Friday agenda

Kaua‘i Community College will host a public meeting Friday on House Bill 38, the “Lifeguard Liability Bill.”

The Kaua‘i Fire Department is coming out in strong support of the bill, which seeks to protect the state and county lifeguards from liability in drownings and other ocean safety issues.

“We are rounding up the troops locally to testify and encourage you all to come over,” Kaua‘i firefighter Brian Sullivan said in a statement. “We are encouraging all to attend, at the least send testimony to be delivered that night.”

In a letter to state Rep. Ken Ito, chair of the Water, Land, Ocean Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, Kaua‘i fire chief Robert Westerman urged the chairman to support HB 38 and repeal the sunset provisions for Act 190, Act 170 and Act 82, all of which limit lifeguard and government liability.

Act 190, later amended as Act 101, provides the state and county complete defense if proper signage is posted at a beach where a drowning or injury occurred because of currents or shore breaks.

“A very critical and important component of the County of Kaua‘i’s prevention efforts is the posting of warning signs at hazardous beaches,” Westerman states in the letter.

Act 170 protects lifeguards from civil liability while performing a rescue.

“Ke‘e Beach (is) being considered for lifeguard services, and Act 170 provides the protection needed for the counties to provide lifeguards” there, Westerman said. “Simply stated, properly trained and properly equipped lifeguards are the front line of defense in ensuring the safety of the millions of citizens who annually visit beaches in the United States.”

Westerman said all three acts, which are set to expire, have worked to protect residents and visitors.

“By repealing the sunset provisions, you will be ensuring the continued safety of the public and protection for the counties and the state,” he said.

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