Beach Safety Week focuses on having fun while staying safe

LIHU‘E — Lifeguards operating under the Ocean Safety Bureau are the guardians of the sea, risking their lives on a daily basis to decrease drowning and water-related accidents, said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. on the occasion of announcing May 21 to 28 as National Beach Safety Week.

The Ocean Safety Bureau, under the jurisdiction of the Kaua‘i Fire Department and sharing an overlap with the KFD’s Prevention Bureau, focuses on prevention and safety awareness to both local residents and tourists of the dangers which can occur while visiting the island’s beaches.

“Kaua‘i has some of the most stunning beaches in the world,” Carvalho said. “However, the ocean can be as dangerous as it is beautiful and our lifeguards risk their lives every day to protect the public from these dangers. We take this time to thank them for all they do.”

The Ocean Safety Bureau’s objectives are to decrease the incidence of drowning and other water-related injuries through aggressive and innovative ocean safety measures while promoting Kaua‘i’s guarded beaches as safe visitor destinations and recreational areas for residents.

They do this in collaboration with hotels and resorts, nonprofit entities and schools to promote prevention awareness in water safety through the Junior Lifeguard and Ocean Safety Awareness programs. Additionally, lifeguards provide first aid and rescue services for the general public.

Recently, Kaua‘i Ocean Safety Supervisor Kalani Vierra accepted a donation of three jet skis with trailers and rescue sleds and four all-terrain vehicles from Dr. Monty Downs of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association. The contribution was funded by the massive First Wave campaign held in October.

“We waited for the 2012 models to arrive before finalizing our purchases,” Downs said in a release. “This donation represents, I believe, partnership at its best. This is a partnership between Kaua‘i’s people who are determined to help solve Kaua‘i’s ‘ocean safety challenge,’ a nonprofit agency whose mission is to impact this challenge and has fundraising capabilities and expertise, and our county government.”

The Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association is also a strong supporter of the Junior Lifeguard Program, which started in 1997 with about a dozen youngsters.

Currently, the Junior Lifeguard program on Kaua‘i reigns as state champions, a title they’ve earned for the past eight years.

“The program teaches ocean safety awareness and teamwork and encourages athletic competition,” said Jim Ingham, the Ocean Safety Bureau’s North District supervisor. “Our boys and girls have gone on to win many inter-state championships, but more importantly, our Junior Guards now have the tools to help save lives as evidenced by two rescues.

On March 15, a Junior Guard and her friend, a Boy Scout, were walking along the Hanalei Pier when they noticed a woman in distress under the surface of the water.

“The victim was apparently having a seizure and was unable to swim,” Ingham said. “Bystanders called 911 and the young pair jumped in to assist the woman, pulling her to the surface and while holding her head above water, made their way towards shore.”

Lifeguards from the Hanalei Pavilion tower responded to the call on their truck, which is supplied with an A.E.D., oxygen kit and first-aid supplies. The 4×4 truck made the two-minute drive to the pier where the teens had brought the woman ashore. The woman was later transferred by ambulance to Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

On March 31, a Junior Guard and her swim coach made a save at Brennecke’s Beach in Po‘ipu, Ingham said. “They were finishing a long ocean swim when they came across a victim in the shore break,” Ingham said. “The man was low in the water with his head down, unable to move. The pair brought the unconscious man to shore, asking for help in calling 911.”

Po‘ipu Tower, the busiest on the island with coverage from Mahalepu to areas south of Spouting Horn, responded with three of its four lifeguards — Miles Emura, Roy Yamagata and Justin Tabalno.

The lifeguards immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and, after suspecting a cervical injury, used appropriate techniques for the possible injury. Ingham said the lifeguards were able to revive the man, and the Station 4 fire crew and Medic 24 teams transferred the victim using a backboard.

It was later determined the swimmer had suffered a neck injury in the shore break. He was flown to O‘ahu and later to his home state where he is making progress in his recovery.

“Kaua‘i lifeguards would like to thank the two Junior Guards and their friends for helping these individuals,” Ingham said. “Their quick responses saved two lives.”

Applications for this free program for teens aged 13 to 17 are available at all lifeguard towers, Kaua‘i Fire Department headquarters and at www.kauai.gov, the county’s website.

The program is designed to teach ocean safety and lifesaving skills while covering drug awareness, physical conditioning and competition skills.

Week-long programs will be held at five sites: June 4-8 at Salt Pond Park;  June 18-22 at Lydgate Park; June 25-29 at Po‘ipu; July 9-13 at Hanalei; and July 16-20 at Kalapaki Beach. All sessions run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Program sponsors include the County of Kaua‘i, Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, the KLA and many businesses and individuals.

“Our lifeguards are dedicated to reducing the number of drownings on Kaua‘i and in keeping our beachgoers safe,” Vierra said. “With the help of our visitor industry and many community advocates, we have come a long way in achieving that goal and we are very grateful for the support.”

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