Rescue tubes’ life-saving powers grow

KILAUEA — Another two dozen rescue tubes will soon be installed along several unguarded North Shore beaches, but water-safety advocates say that’s not the half of it.

Volunteers were working hard to assemble the tubes on Tuesday at Kilauea Mini Storage. Hanalei Rotarian John Gillen, who owns the property, provided the space for the rescue tubes to be assembled and stored while awaiting placement around Kaua‘i’s coastline.

The most recent addition of rescue tubes will be installed on shorelines ranging from Hanapai, a beach on the north side of Kalihiwai, up to the popular ‘Anini Beach and around to Princeville, said Bob Robertson of the North Shore Lions Club.

“We have more than a hundred at different beaches around the island,” said Branch Lotspeich of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay. “But what is even more exciting is that we started a website to go along with our little factory.”

Lotspeich, the executive director of Rescue Tubes Foundation, said rescue tubes have helped save many lives along Kaua‘i’s shores, and will be saving many more as additional rescue tube stations are established.

In addition to its obvious life-saving capability, Lotspeich said the rescue tubes are each numbered. With the help of Dr. Monty Downs of the Kaua‘i Water Safety Task Force and IT Kaua‘i, they are working on creating a database of Global Positioning System locations which will be turned over to the county’s 9-1-1 system.

“This way, the rescue tubes can help not only swimmers in distress, but anyone who is in its vicinity,” Lotspeich said. “Many of Kaua‘i’s beaches have a number of names and features which are known only to beach-goers, and visitors have a difficult time trying to pronounce a beach’s name. By referring to the number on the rescue tube pole, the 9-1-1 dispatcher will have a GPS location and can better dispatch emergency response teams.”

With the aid of a smartphone application, Lotspeich and Downs have been taking pictures of each rescue tube placement, the phone’s app making note of the GPS setting.

This is sent via email to a special email account at IT Kaua‘i where the information is stripped, a Google map created and a photo with the GPS setting created for the rescue tube.

Lotspeich said he has also been giving thought to providing the beach-specific cautions recommended in a recent report by Po‘ipu geologist Dr. Charles Blay.

Because each beach is not limited to just one rescue tube setup, but set up based on the beach conditions and use, Lotspeich feels the tube is an ideal venue to dispense beach-specific cautions.

“We have to work with the state on placing the rescue tubes on the beaches,” said Downs. He had stopped by the new storage facility to pick up an assembly for display at the Panda Express fundraiser for the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association. (See page A6 for the full story on the fundraiser.)

Randy Ortiz, a Kaua‘i Ocean Safety Bureau lifeguard helping at the fundraiser, said the Kaua‘i Junior Lifeguards are taught how to use the rescue tubes effectively.

“We teach the Juniors the same thing we teach our full-time staff,” Ortiz said. “They all know how to use the rescue tubes to help someone in the water.”

Lotspeich said the start of the rescue tube facility was greatly aided by both The Home Depot and Ace Hardware, both offering significant discounts on the materials needed to establish the assembly area.

The facility also offers service project opportunities where young people can learn about water safety while helping to save lives.

Visit for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@


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