This is the time of year lots of us try to focus on things that we feel thankful for. So many things come to mind for such as: my staff, who always go the extra mile when it comes to protecting and rescuing people; all the volunteers with the Survivor Support Network and Wave Watchers who are always there when we, and the public, need them; also, the Park Board, city of Galveston, county and other governmental groups that have consistently supported our program for decades and the many public safety groups that are always willing to work together for our shared mission.

we are thankful for working within a community that supports what we do. And, I have to say, I’m especially grateful for living in a community where my family has such deep roots and where we have the privilege of living in concert with the natural environment.

When I think past the obvious things for which to be grateful, I’m also reminded that the Beach Patrol, as the designated lifesaving service for the city of Galveston, also has a fairly unique funding mechanism. The majority of our funding comes from hotel tax dollars, which means citizens of Galveston do not pay for our services.

Tourists do. We still would not be able to provide all the services we do with just that, but we also receive money from beach user fees, which are also primarily generated by tourists. This is a good thing because we do not, as many beach patrols do, have to compete for funding with other emergency services or city departments.

This system was created in the ‘60s when Galveston, working with then-Sen. Babe Schwartz, realized how much importance a beach tourist town has to put on the care, maintenance and protection of people on our main tourist attraction. Early on, we realized we needed to provide a high level of service on the beaches in order to attract and maintain tourist revenue.

I’m also appreciative of working as a professional beach lifeguard in the United States. Through volunteer work with the United States Lifesaving Association and through the International Lifesaving Federation I’ve been exposed to lots of different types of systems. Some hotels pay for guards in front directly, others work through national fire or military and in a shrinking tradition, many still use volunteer lifesaving corps.

A few parts of the world mark off areas that are guarded with flags and sort of ignore the other areas of the coast. But in the U.S., the accepted best practice is comprehensive programs that cover areas of high risk or high use, like we do here in Galveston. So with the resources we have we guard busy areas, patrol others, provide social programs and an after hours on call system, etc.

Bottom line is that in the U.S. we are able to prevent more, rescue more and do all that with state of the art equipment.

So, bottom line is I’m grateful to be in a place, time, and community that supports helping people and preventing tragedy as much as possible.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

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