Fortunately, we’re now in the position to run lifeguard patrols throughout the year. As the temperature cools, we’ll drive the entire beachfront and, in addition to our lifesaving responsibilities, be able to devote attention to things like driving in prohibited areas, glass and alcohol enforcement, leash law enforcement, driving in sand dunes, and lots of other beach related issues.

Hopefully, this will take a little off the burden placed on the Galveston Police Department. Having a rescue truck out there already on patrol also will greatly improve our response time to water and medical emergencies in and around Galveston water.

Other than that, we use the “slower” months to concentrate on rebuilding lifeguard towers and repairing/replacing needed signage of the 600 or so signs we maintain all over the island. We also use that slower time for the higher levels of training required of our full-time staff.

For example, our new staff members are going to a certification course for “Swift Water Technician” this week and will be taking the Certified Tourism Ambassador course later this month. Additionally, we revise and improve training and administrative materials and try to burn off a bit of that vacation time that’s hard to use during the busiest nine months of the year.

Looking back over the past season, it was a tough one. Very large crowds and an extraordinary amount of rough water days kept us on our toes and sent some of our stats thought the roof. We seemed to be running at breakneck speed all season long and didn’t even get that late summer flat water that gives us some relief.

The big number that shows how busy we were is 175,080 preventative actions. In recent years we’ve traditionally hit somewhere just over 100,000. This year is the highest number we’ve ever recorded. This category measures how many times we advised people about or moved them from dangerous areas. It encompasses everything from the lifeguard swimming out and staying next to someone until they get to shore, to moving groups of people away from rocks on the loudspeaker in the trucks.

It doesn’t include times we physically touch someone to bring them to shore, which is considered a rescue. We made 93 rescues this year, which includes both rescues of swimmers and people who are boating. If we’re doing a good job of prevention, that number will stay low, like it is this year.

Another big success was that we hit around 25,000 water safety talk contacts. This can be our school outreach program, or groups that show up on the beach that we intercept and give a safety talk.

We also made 582 medical responses and 627 enforcements. We often serve to filter out calls for EMS, police, and fire by handling minor things on site, so they don’t have to respond.

Finally, we reunited 179 lost children with parents, gave a few thousand tourists information about Galveston, provided 62 people help with vehicles, and a whole lot more.

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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