OCEAN CITY – Most locals will agree that this is the best time to be in Ocean City. The beach conditions are awesome and the crowds are smaller due to school being back in session. Even though beach conditions are great, it is one of the most challenging times for guarding the beach.
A large percentage of the lifeguards are back at school or college and many of the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) guards are teachers. Keeping personnel to cover the beach can be difficult.
Lt. Mike Stone is an expert at scheduling and does a nice job of making sure the optimal number of guards are at strategic places on the beach. The biggest challenge now is to keep the maximum number of lifeguard stands staffed.
The OCBP begins implementation of the fall coverage scheme each year following Labor Day. Fall coverage extends until this Sunday. During this reduced overage, staffing levels will be far less than the OCBP’s mid-season deployment. OCBP had over 75 percent of their staff report to other responsibilities prior to the Tuesday after Labor Day with the majority returning as students, with the remainder taking full-time career positions or returning to their classrooms as educators.
However, due to the OCBP’s recruiting and retention programs, additional returning guards will allow OCBP to increase the total number of stands on weekends. However, the distance between the stands has increased as the number of stands decreases. This will mean a constant change in stand placement. To locate the closest stand to your beach, you may call OCBP headquarters at 410-289-7556.
Due to the increased distance between stands, the standard operating procedure for making rescues and providing coverage during a rescue changes.
During mid-season, when an SRT initiates a rescue intervention the guards on both sides (less than 200 meters away) have the responsibility of covering the rescue by relocating on the beach close to the point of rescue. With the increased distance between stands the back-up procedure is not effective. Therefore, mobile rescue units are added to the coverage scenario and are responsible to respond to each rescue as backup.
Beginning on Monday, Sept. 24, all lifeguard towers will be removed from the beach until the Saturday of Memorial Day 2008. However, the OCBP will have mobile surf rescue response personnel available for intervention should the need arise. Although Ocean City Fire/EMS are ready and willing to respond to surf rescues, the OCBP is the agency that is trained and equipped specifically for this mission. The OCBP will be in response mode like the paramedics or police, with a small group on the beach in their vehicles.
Typically, the OCBP fields “swimmer in trouble” calls forwarded by a 911 dispatcher. Having the mobile units out makes the OCBP one step closer if someone needs assistance. When a response is indicated the rescue swimmer initiates the intervention while the driver who is also a trained rescue swimmer maintains radio contact with the 911 center and acts as backup to the initial rescuer.
The number one priority of the Ocean City Beach Patrol continues to be public safety. Beach patrons are strongly encouraged to restrict any beach- or water-related activities to times and locations where OCBP personnel are on duty.