Beach Safety Week offers lessons for all

NAWILIWILI — Kaua‘i has more miles of sandy beaches than other islands, said Dr. Monty Downs of the Kaua‘i Water Safety Task Force during a small gathering yesterday at Kalapaki Beach.

Kaua‘i also had the highest incidence of drownings due to the number of people attracted to the island’s plentiful beaches.

But all was not bad news at the Beach Safety Week event.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau, arriving home to attend a funeral, stopped by with news that this year’s legislature approved lifeguards for Ke‘e Beach.

“It has taken some time, but we finally were able to get lifeguards for one of the busiest and crowded areas on the island,” Hooser said, recalling past efforts to man that beach when he and Mayor Bryan Baptiste served as councilmen.

Jimmy Tokioka also was able to extend the state liability bill, Downs said.

According to Downs, statewide observance of Beach Safety Week was born of Kaua‘i’s example. The island used the event to spread awareness of beach and water safety as well as honor and acknowledge the efforts of Kaua‘i’s water safety officers and others involved in water rescues.

Sue Kanoho of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and Beth Tokioka of the county’s Office of Economic Development were acknowledged for their efforts in bringing water safety to the forefront.

To prevent drownings, a new Web site, www.kauaiexplorer.com, was created to share tips on how to have the most fun and still be safe on Kaua‘i’s beaches.

The Kaua‘i Beach Explorer site is up and running with links to beach safety tips, a lifeguard’s ocean safety video, changing ocean conditions, rip currents and seasonal surf trends.

“This is an absolute team effort,” Kaua‘i Fire Chief Robert Westerman said. “Saving a life could be as simple as a lifeguard telling someone to move away from a potential disaster just by a couple of feet, and when there is a rescue, it is a true team effort between the lifeguards, American Medical Response, the USCG and the fire department.”

Beyond that, Westerman said Downs is involved when a patient is brought to Wilcox Hospital, further demonstrating the depth of the team effort.

In commemoration of the event, a simulated rescue was performed for the benefit of the hundreds of beachgoers taking a dip in the cool ocean waters to escape the hot afternoon sun.

Jim Jung of the Coast Guard Auxiliary coordinated a Coast Guard helicopter to take part in the demonstration.

And just as emergency response personnel began to assess the “rescued swimmer,” a call came over the radio of Kalani Vierra of the Ocean Safety Bureau.

“This is a call of a swimmer in distress off Waiohai,” Vierra said. “This is for real.”

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