OCEAN CITY – With the Fourth of July just around the corner and the ocean warming up just in time for the holiday crowds and the true start of summer, the Ocean City Beach Patrol is pulling out all the stops in preparation, from a week long re-certification process to pulling out extra stands and personnel for the busy holiday weekend.
The Fourth of July is typically a banner holiday in the resort town, with families and beachgoers pouring in to enjoy sun, fun and fireworks. With the Fourth falling on a Friday this year, it is likely that the weekend will bring thousands of tourists to Ocean City, eager to enjoy the three day holiday weekend.
While business owners and hoteliers hope for bigger crowds this year, the Ocean City Beach Patrol must prepare for the large crowds that will inevitably flock to the beach and fill the waters.
“That’s when the beach becomes most popular down here, when the Fourth is on a weekend,” said Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin this week.
As a result, Arbin intends on strengthening every aspect of beach coverage and safety to ensure a safe holiday and to set the stage for a safe summer.
“We have someone in every stand, with additional stands and additional personnel on foot,” he said.
Increasing the number of guards in the stands will work to add extra eyes on the water, as the ocean fills with both experienced and novice swimmers. Extra personnel on foot will assist in controlling beach regulations as well as providing support in emergency situations.
“We’ll have additional vehicles on the beach, that way the area they are responsible for isn’t as large,” said Arbin.
Arbin explained that in the event of an emergency, cutting down the travel time for the quads and emergency vehicles to reach a victim could be crucial, particularly along a crowded beach.
Beach patrol coverage of the water will be increased as well, said Arbin, who noted that more Beach Patrol waverunners and rescue craft would be seen next weekend as holiday vacationers fill the waters with their own personal watercraft and boats.
This past week, beach patrol veterans were charged with proving their skills. As the summer season kicks in, veterans are required to pass re-certification tests, an annual requirement that comes in addition to passing annual drug tests at the beginning of the season.
“Every returning guard must go through a day of re-certification,” said Arbin.
The re-certification process alternates between in-classroom training and field training. Returning guards must, once again, complete tests that were required of them when the first entered the Beach Patrol. 300 meter runs in soft sand and 400 meter swims in the ocean in set amounts of time are just a few of the test utilized to measure a returning lifeguards’ skill level.
Arbin explained that each lifeguard is refreshed in practice skills such as simulated rescues and victim removal from the surf. Lifeguards are also updated in CRP and first aid training and certification.
“It’s a whole day of training and we rotate the entire patrol through,” said Arbin.
Besides making sure each lifeguard in the stand is well trained, lifeguards tasked with driving the quads, or four-wheelers, along the beach are also required to become re-certified. Arbin explained that a variety of tests are performed as well as an obstacle course along the beach. Waverunner operators also become re-certified each year.
“Everything we do is really by design. We want to be professional and to make everyone safe,” said Arbin.