One week from Saturday, at 7 a.m. May 15, we’ll hold lifeguard tryouts at the University of Texas Medical Branch Fieldhouse. Information is on our website.

After the swim, drug test and orientation, we’ll launch straight into almost 100 hours of training in nine days.

We’re all holding our breath hoping recruiting efforts pay off, word has gotten to interested people and a crowd shows up for tryouts. Now more than ever, Galveston needs a full complement of guards to protect what has become an almost unbelievable number of tourists who visit our island and its beaches each year.

The academy involves things you’d assume ocean guard training would include. We teach CPR and First Aid that specializes in beach-related injuries and emergencies. There is a ton of instruction and time spent on how to swim and effect a rescue in the surf environment.

We train for multiple victim rescues, rip current rescues and rescues involving specialized equipment like rescue boards, boats and jet skis. We get into specifics like how to move around on rocks covered in algae and barnacles without getting hurt while waves break on you.

Search and recovery is, of course, an important part of training as well.

But there are other things you wouldn’t immediately think of. Things like how to be a tourist ambassador, help a stranded dolphin or sea turtle, deal with a panicky parent who has lost a child, handle toxic materials and what to do if you encounter a crime scene.

City ordinances, park rules, beach patrol policies and an understanding of all the community programs beach patrol is involved in are in the mix. Obviously, there is still plenty of learning that has to happen up in the actual lifeguard towers, but we give trainees a solid base to work from so they know they can handle anything.

One of the main differences in the United States Lifesaving Association training compared to pool or water park lifeguard training is that the standards for beach guards are necessarily much higher, particularly the swim requirement, and the required training hours are two or three times that of other lifeguard programs.

The Galveston Island Beach Patrol is an “advanced” level agency, which involves more training and more requirements for the full-time and supervisory staff.

Additionally, the training philosophy is different. The association focuses on a flexible approach where we emphasize general concepts that can be adapted and are easier to remember in a crisis.

For example, we teach the basic concept of keeping floatation between you and a victim when making a rescue as opposed to getting too focused on one specific technique. In short, we teach and train for Murphy’s law.

The bottom line is that when you see the man or woman in our lifeguard towers or rescue trucks, you can feel comfortable knowing they’ve been through rigorous and practical training to earn the right to be there. Best of the best.

We just need many more. So, if you know anyone who has what it takes ... .

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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