Beach safety, now

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Chantal Zarbaugh and Bonnie Hailer of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association unveil the 2020 Hawai‘i Beach Safety Week banner before Kaua‘i Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Hudson, and Kaua‘i Ocean Safety Bureau’s Kleve Zarbaugh, Kalani Vierra, and Tyrus Siale, Monday in front of the county’s Emergency Operating Center.

LIHU‘E — Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized how important Kaua‘i’s beaches are to the community, Monday during the announcement of June 1 through 7 being Hawai‘i Beach Safety Week.

Traditionally, the announcement was part of a ceremony honoring the work of Kaua‘i’s lifeguards and the community groups that support the lifeguards in their mission of safeguarding the beaches. Instead, in the pandemic, Kawakami used his daily video update to announce the observance, taking the opportunity to thank the lifeguards for the work they do.

Emergency Rule no. 8, also known as the Beach Rule, allows people to visit beaches with families in groups of no more than 10 people while keeping a social distance from others at all times.

“These rules to social distance while at the beach help us to protect each other from the spread of COVID-19,” Kawakami said. “But it also helps us protect our lifeguards who are the first responders of our beaches. This week, we recognize and honor our lifeguards during Kaua‘i Beach Safety Week. We want to commend and thank all our beach safety officers who have been protecting the lives of all our beachgoers. Our unpredictable ocean environment posses many dangers, and the professionalism of our ocean safety teams is the reason that only about 5% of all drownings occur at guarded beaches.”

The aquatic environment has dangers, particularly rip currents that can be effectively managed through public awareness and the vigilance of professional lifeguards. Reasons of public safety make it appropriate for the reminder of the joys and hazards associated with the aquatic environment as people flock to the beaches during the summer beach season.

“During this time, we urge all residents and visitors using our beaches to enjoy yourselves while taking appropriate social distancing measures to protect yourselves and your family,” said Kalani Vierra, the Kaua‘i Ocean Safety Bureau lead.

Vierra offered some “safe and smart” tips for ocean safety, including Safety Tip No. 1 – swim near a lifeguard.

Other tips include swim with a buddy — never swim alone, observe the ocean conditions before entering, obey all warning signs, have an emergency action plan, visit the Hawai‘i Beach Safety webside (www.Hawaiibeachsafety.com), keep our ocean and beaches clean.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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