Happy New Year! Winter goes quickly in Galveston. Before you know it, the beaches will be filling up again and we’ll start the cycle all over.

We all make resolutions for the new year. We change our diet, commit to exercising more often, promise ourselves we’ll be more patient with difficult people or work environments, and basically try to will ourselves into being better people. And changing our path is a real, although difficult, possibility.

The Dalai Lama said something to the effect of right intention leads to right actions, which if practiced consistently leads to right being. You can, over time, change your essence for the better. You can become a better person through discipline and consciously changing your actions.

We on the Beach Patrol also have annual resolutions and goals that we choose and focus on for the year. Just like you and me and most people, we try to keep doing the good things we do consistently and pick areas we think we should improve on and make them our focus. Many of these goals are embodied in our annual “business plan,” which all the Park Board of Trustees departments do and our board of directors approves/adopts for the coming year.

For us it usually boils down to setting goals that will ultimately prevent accidents. Many of them have to do with targeting areas where we can improve our performance or focusing on segments of the population for public education.

One area we always want to improve on is how much we’re able to reach the youth. Our belief is that when young people know the basics of beach safety, they not only avoid accidents themselves, but they can also educate their peers, younger siblings, and even their parents.

The schools have for many years been very supportive of our annual School Water Safety Outreach Program. A big part of this is we go out to the schools in the spring and give water safety presentations to as many children as we can.

We focus on Galveston County but have in recent years extended our net further. Our goal this year is to reach over 20,000 children. If these children know how to avoid rip currents and other beach hazards, they can spread that knowledge.

We can create a sort of “herd immunity” in which children who are “inoculated” with information on how to be safe can reduce the chances of drowning for not only themselves, but other children and family members they’re with. We do the same for groups that show up on the beach.

Of course, we have many other goals related to administration, maintenance, communication and productivity. But ultimately it all comes back to preventing aquatic accidents. And when you talk of prevention, the key is to provide the tools and information for people to be able to take care of themselves and then be there ready to help with additional layers of protection and response when all else fails.

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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