Last week, I talked about how we deploy each day and some of the nuances of how we operate. There are some underlying principles that we follow that are related, in that they dictate how we operate with regards to safety of our employees and/or the beach going public.

These give a look behind the curtain of how we make many of our staffing and operational decisions. I’d like to share a few of these with you.

We try to have at least a 1-to-1 victim to rescuer ratio. So, if there are five victims, we try to have a minimum of five rescuers respond and one additional one to stay on shore as a communication link and incident commander. There are times this is impossible, and one of our guards must attempt to save two or more people. This is possible but dangerous for the rescuer and the victims.

We’ve had a couple of incidents in recent history where the guard was overcome, but fortunately, help was close by. Making a water rescue is a risky thing and that’s a big part of why we try so hard to prevent situations from developing that could end up in a rescue.

Stretching our guards too thin is another risk. We attempt to ensure guards don’t work too many hours in a day or in a week. Exhaustion not only leads to inattention, but to a reduction in the physical ability we must maintain to work long days and undertake strenuous tasks, like a rescue. There are many things we practice that help, such as scheduling four guards for each three towers so one can work an early shift and then give breaks to the other guards later in the day.

Whenever possible we work in teams. Two people to a truck or guards working adjacent to each other allows us to watch each other’s back and protect the public when some of us are tied up with an emergency. This applies to the zone system of coverage we have with vehicles and tower guards.

If a truck is out for more than five minutes on something, the other vehicles shift coverage, so they always have every part of the guarded beach covered in case something else happens. The result of quick backup for guards or response to emergencies definitely saves a number of lives each year.

Finally, lifeguard health and safety are critical. It’s a big part of why the guards have a daily fitness and skills training session each day. There’s a real cost to letting our staff get exhausted, dehydrated or overworked. With lifeguarding, it’s all about focus, and people can’t consistently pay attention when they’re burned out.

The result of ignoring this has a clear result in number of injuries, staff retention, missed workdays, etc. If a guard doesn’t come to work or isn’t sharp in this job, it’s a real different thing than feeling tired or listless at a normal job.

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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