Roving lifeguard patrols deserve county support

With this letter I ask the Kauai County Council to support the Roving Lifeguard Patrol that Fire Chief Westerman and Ocean Safety Supervisor Kalani Vierra have submitted as part of Kauai’s 2016-2017 budget. The mayor has already given his support to this exciting — and many would say critical and overdue — addition to our Ocean Safety Division, and now it’s under consideration by the Kauai County Council.

This addition is in order to increase lifeguard presence at currently unguarded beaches, and there are many of these. (We have 10 lifeguard towers for an estimated 65 Kauai beaches). Our amazing lifeguards and firefighters, with their rescue craft (aka Jet Skis) and ATVs and helicopters do all they can to help with this, but still we had two people drown at unguarded Shipwrecks last year, one man drown at unguarded Koloa Landing this year, one young woman drown at unguarded Lumahai last year … and the list goes on. (The list of Jet Ski and helicopter rescues, by the way, is just as significant. Joyful ending endings instead of catastrophic endings).

Ideally, we’d have lifeguard towers at all these beaches and more. At $400,000 a pop, this isn’t gonna happen. In fact, even adding one new tower isn’t gonna happen, given budget constraints.

Roving Lifeguard Patrols (roving either by land or by sea or both) is the best option available to us, assuming we have the will to improve our service to beachgoing people, locals and visitors. (Over 2 million were counted in 2015 at lifeguarded beaches alone). These roving patrols are already operational on Oahu, and in fact, 20 percent of their lifeguard personnel are assigned to roving units.

Supervisor Vierra worked diligently to create this budget-friendly proposal — for around 25 percent of the cost of one new staffed tower — that will allow for a roving patrol unit in each of our three districts (North, East, and Southwest). And the Kauai Lifeguard Association has committed, thanks to our beloved donors, to help the county in this endeavor by purchasing and then donating the equipment (trucks, Jet Skis, trailers, etc.) that can make this happen.

Writing on behalf of the Kauai Lifeguard Association and its directors and members, as well as on behalf of our beachgoers, I respectfully ask our County Council to support and fund this program.

•••

Monty Downs, M.D., is president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association.

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