LIHUE — When it comes to getting the word out about potential ocean hazards, the Kauai Lifeguard Association pulls out all the stops.
“The No. 1 thing we do is support our county Ocean Safety Bureau and their employees. They make hundreds of thousands of what we call preventions each year, and therefore they are the No. 1 way of warning people,” said Dr. Monty Downs, president of KLA. “Sometimes with bullhorns, sometimes with PA systems, we are able to support the bureau.”
This year, there have been just over 1.5 million visitors to Kauai’s beaches. Lifeguards have made 189 rescues, 63 Jet Ski rescues and taken 91,286 preventative actions.
Drowning is the leading cause of death among visitors to Hawaii, said Department of Health Epidemiologist Dan Galanis. He said 50 percent of all Hawaii visitors deaths are drowning.
Across the state, visitors drown at nearly 10 times the rate of residents, according to The Associated Press.
For example, on Oahu, the number of visitors drowning from 2005-14 was 356, which outpaced deaths of residents at 294.
Last year on Kauai, there were 14 drownings.
KLA’s goal is to instill and enforce an ocean-minded community.
“We publicize ocean safety regularly on radio, in the newspaper, on local TV, and via our website,” Downs said. “We work with hotels and vacation rentals, helping them to develop strategies for their guests, via concierges, and again with the brochure and the video.”
Andy Melamed, marketing director for KLA, said there are a number of ways the organization gets its message out. One is the distribution of 250,000 newly printed ocean safety brochures.
“Any and all hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, activity desks, car rental agencies and retailers can distribute to their guests and customers daily,” he said. “They are available at the Ocean Safety Bureau office in Lihue.”
KLA also recently released a new ocean safety video that is being shown at the Lihue Airport and in resorts.
“(It’s) available for anyone to download, whether its a hotel resort or business,” he said. “If they cannot download, we also have the six-minute video on DVD for showing at surf shops like Nukumoi in Poipu.”
Other awareness efforts include rescue tubes at unguarded beaches, three roving patrol units, talks about ocean safety at visitor industry gatherings, and PA systems at lifeguard stands.
For Downs, Kauai’s Junior Lifeguard Program plays a key role in ocean awareness.
“We consider our Junior Lifeguard to be part of this effort in that it graduates 450-plus ‘Force Multipliers’ every year, youth who can keep an eye on our many unguarded beaches,” he said.
KLA also instructs visitors to go to the 10 guarded beaches on Kauai, which are Kee, Haena, Anahola, Kealia, Lydgate, Poipu, Salt Pond and Kekaha, and two in Hanalei.
So far in 2017, there have been seven drownings on Kauai.