I’ve been working on a really interesting side project for a while now. For 20 years, on behalf of the United States Lifesaving Association, I’ve been part of a national task force between the association and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. On the NOAA end, it’s specifically the National Weather Service and Sea Grant.

This rip current awareness project includes signage, brochures, teaching aids, videos, etc. Recently, we’ve started a new and really cool addition to the project.

Part of the difficulty in creating a national body of information is consistency of messaging. We may talk about rip currents in a certain way in Texas, but in New Jersey, Florida or California, they may use different terminology to address similar concepts. Plus, we all think we’re right.

So, a lot of the challenge has been to promote uniformity of messaging.

To complicate matters more, even if the major organizations are on board with the message, there are often smaller nonprofits that pop up after a drowning event that are well meaning and motivated but aren’t familiar with the standardized terms and push out a similar concept using different terminology or materials. This can be confusing to the public.

So, the new project is to provide a resource specifically for people or groups that want to help spread the word on how to protect yourself from the dangers of rip currents. That’s pretty simple and involves tweaking existing material for that specific purpose.

In the conversation, I mentioned the Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network and how much of a difference it has made to us all locally. The NOAA crew was really interested in helping various National Weather Service offices and lifeguard agencies facilitate the creation of survivor support network groups around the country as part of the tool kit we’re working on.

The mission of The Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network is to help the families and friends of drowning victims by delivering support through emotional, spiritual and physical resources. The intent is to assist the lifeguard agencies and other emergency responders with this support during the recovery process to allow them to focus on their mission to recover the victim, and to follow-up with support and assistance to both the family and the emergency response personnel to encourage closure, healing and preparation for future incidents.

Each incident that calls the survivor support network to action provides an opportunity to learn how to better assist the family in crisis. Translation, ministry, grief counseling, accommodations, meals and negotiations with the county coroner, foreign consulates and funeral directors have all become standard procedures for the survivor support network. Community patrons have generously contributed motel rooms, meals and “Compassion Kits” (coolers of juice, ice, snacks, towels, sun block and umbrellas) as resources to assist the families.

Our hope is that this incredible program will make as much a difference to others as it has here in Galveston. For information about becoming involved in the survivor support network, visit https://jessetree.net.

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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