OCEAN CITY — While the annual education drain is already affecting the Ocean City Beach Patrol, the resort’s 10 miles of sandy beaches will remain covered through the final stretch of the summer season, albeit with thinner ranks and creative protection schemes.
The Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) slogan “Keep Your Feet in the Sand Until a Lifeguard is in the Stand” will perhaps be more important than ever during the remaining weeks of the summer season as the department is already experiencing dwindling numbers of Surf Rescue Technicians, or lifeguards, available to staff the stands. As seasonal staff numbers begin to dwindle, the OCBP is reminding residents and visitors that the number of lifeguards working day-to-day continues to decrease.
While there will be no unguarded areas of the beach, the number of available lifeguards to man the stands changes almost daily and the location and distance between the stands will follow suit during the remaining weeks of summer, especially during the week. At the peak of the summer season, the Beach Patrol’s fullest deployment is typically around 90 stands, or roughly one every block.
On Thursday, however, the OCBP announced on its daily update the manned stands would be located roughly every two blocks. That number is expected to dwindle further during the last week of August next week heading into the Labor Day weekend. Despite the reduced weekday coverage, the OCBP is expected to have returning lifeguards and increased stands on the weekend through the end of summer.
It’s not a unique situation and occurs every year at this time because of the drain on available staff for education reasons. For example, OCBP Captain Butch Arbin is a long-time educator in the Charles County Public Schools system and while students in Maryland public schools do not return until after Labor Day, most educators are making their way back to their classrooms.
A study conducted last year to begin exploring the annual education drain revealed two OCBP lieutenants are educators and of the 12 sergeants on staff, eight are educators and two are college professors. There are 18 crew chiefs, of which eight are educators and two are college professors, and of the 17 assistant crew chiefs, 10 are students. Many of the other rank-and-file lifeguards are also college or high school students and some have left already for early fall sports practices.
During the remaining weeks of summer, the OCBP will get creative with its coverage of the beach as it does every year at this time. While the number of manned stands will decrease and the distance between stands grows wider, the OCBP will deploy more mobile rescue units to patrol the beach and assist with coverage.
Last year, the OCBP had 88 stands manned during the first week of August and 78 stands manned during the second week of August. That number dropped to 55 in the third week of August and then to just 30 in the week leading up to Labor Day weekend. A similar pattern is playing out in the waning weeks of August this year.
Nonetheless, the OCBP will be on duty daily between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. through Sunday, September 23, or the last day of Sunfest, just as it is every year. When the weekday coverage reduces, the Beach Patrol strongly suggests visitors and residents take extra precautions and walk the short distance to swim near a lifeguard. As usual, whether it’s the height of the season or the waning days of August and September, the Beach Patrol urges all beach patrons to restrict any beach or water-related activities to times when the OCBP personnel are on duty.