Reduced Beach Patrol Coverage In Effect In Ocean City

Reduced Beach Patrol Coverage In Effect In Ocean City
File Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — The annual education drain coupled with this week’s persistent heavy surf and high rip current risks continues to create challenges for the Ocean City Beach Patrol, but the resort’s 10 miles of sandy beaches will remain covered through the holiday weekend and the final stretch of the summer season.

The Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) slogan “Keep Your Feet in the Sand Until a Lifeguard is in the Stand” will 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, of lifeguards, available to man the stands. As seasonal staff numbers 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. However, a check of the beach patrol’s daily report midweek revealed the manned lifeguard stands were roughly two- to four-blocks apart with just 28 stands manned on Wednesday. Despite the reduced weekday coverage, the OCBP is expected to have returning lifeguards and increased stands on the weekend through the end of summer. Mobile units will also be on the beach providing coverage.

It’s not a unique situation and occurs every year at this time because of the drain on available staff for education reasons. The annual reduced coverage structure typically begins in the third week in August as is largely due to the start of college classes and the return of the beach patrol’s education professionals to their respective positions throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

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 have already made their way back to their classrooms. Although it hasn’t been updated, 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 were educators and two were college professors. There are 18 crew chiefs, of which eight were educators and two are college professors, and of the 17 assistant crew chiefs, 10 are students, according to last year’s study. Many of the other rank-and-file lifeguards are also college or high school students.

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. As the number of manned stands continues to decrease and the distance between stands grows wider, the OCBP will deploy more mobile rescue units to patrol the beach and assist with coverage.

Nonetheless, the OCBP will be on duty daily between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. through Sunday, Sept. 22, 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.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.