On Jan. 19, six lifeguards volunteered to come out and stand in the 54-degree water keeping watch for almost 300 people who participated in the Polar Plunge. They were freezing cold when they came out of more than an hour in the water wearing only 3-millimeter wetsuits.

Amazing that they chose to do that during a time they’re not working. While watching over them and the groups who were running in the water, I also noticed one of our blue “Wave Watcher” shirts on shore.

Carlos Guerra was standing on the shoreline adding an additional set of trained eyes to our layers of protection for the swimmers. Carlos and his wife, Iris, have been big supporters for many years. Their son, Carlos, was in our Junior Lifeguard Program for many years, and now works as a lifeguard. Three years ago, when we started our Wave Watcher program, Carlos and Iris were among the first to sign up and have been very active volunteers.

The Beach Patrol has been fortunate for many, many years to have great support from the community and county. We’re so lucky that the hard work our guards do is recognized and appreciated, and we recognize that that’s something we continually need to strive to maintain.

That’s a big part of why we have so many programs that tie to the community in which we’re imbedded, such as the Jesse Tree/Beach Patrol Survivor Support Network, our Junior Lifeguard Program, being designated as a “Safe Place” for children, our School Outreach Program, At-Risk Kids Camps, and, of course, our Wave Watcher Program.

The Galveston Island Beach Patrol Wave Watcher Volunteer Program is a way for ordinary residents to join our team. It’s a mini lifeguard academy that’s free of charge and that will serve as a force multiplier in our effort to prevent drowning deaths and aquatic accidents.

We’ll have the Wave Watcher Academy in April. Participants will go through 20 hours of free training which includes topics such as: Beach Patrol history and operations, rip currents and general beach safety, “Code X” (witnessed drowning) procedures, victim recognition, first aid and CPR, and tourist ambassador certification (CTA Training). There’s no swimming involved, and everyone is welcome!

Once they graduate, they can help with our Lost Child Detail on holidays, join us for special events and competitions, or assist with large scale emergencies. Most importantly, they will form a cadre of informed beachgoers who have “the eye,” so are able to spot trouble developing before it happens and notify us or other emergency service groups.

This could happen in the course of their normal daily lives when they drive, walk, fish, surf, etc., along the beachfront. Or it could take place with a more organized activity. The level of commitment and involvement will be completely up to the graduates.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining the crew there is information on our website or they can call 409-763-4769. Join us!

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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