EDITORIAL: Equip our lifeguards
Reports are that lifeguards in Barbados stand in need of more manpower, equipment and the requisite powers to enforce whatever orders they are able to give, to better preserve the lives of sea bathers.
Currently, it is said that there are about sixty-seven lifeguards overseeing seventeen beaches on the island, but about thirty more are needed to adequately cover the beaches. According to key officials at the National Conservation Commission (NCC), more vessels are also needed to better aid lifeguards in carrying out rescue operations, especially since they often have to swim out far from the shore, stabilise the affected person and then bring them back inland. A rescue craft could make this task a lot easier, especially when multiple victims are involved.
A call has also been made for an amendment to the present legislation governing how lifeguards operate, to give them the authority needed to prevent persons from entering the water when prohibited to do so, as at present they can only issue a cautionary warning or word of advice.
It is time however that our lifeguards be given the requisite resources they need to do their job, as it is a tough enough job already. So whatever can be done to make their tasks less of a burden, the relevant authorities should seek to find ways and means to do so. After all, we pride ourselves on sun, sea and sand, and both visitors and locals alike need the added protection when visiting our beaches.
Now we have often heard it said that “the sea has no back door”. The more mature folks would always issue a word of caution to the youth about excessive frolicking in the sea and they would always issue a reminder that as much fun as a sea bath holds for the average person, there is always the possibility of one drowning as well, whilst trying to enjoy a sea bath.
With all the talk about a lack of adequate number of lifeguards being available to patrol the beaches, it stands to reason that sea bathers should take greater responsibility for themselves, in the midst of all their fun and frolic. Though school is back in session, there are still scores of school children who frequent the beaches on weekends, even though the summer period has relatively come to an end. As such, parents and guardians need to have a good chat with them about how to keep safe whilst at the beach. There are also some signs posted on some beaches, advising sea bathers how they should operate whilst in the water, for instance, making sure they swim parallel to the shore and not out towards the boats as some persons at times do, ensuring that they never swim alone, etc.
The National Conservation Commission’s (NCC) Lifeguard Service also does its part to give useful advice to locals and visitors alike. For instance, the NCC has made it clear that sea bathers should go to the beaches manned by lifeguards for their own safety.
The Lifeguard Service has also urged beach users to adhere to all instructions given by lifeguards and observe the flags posted at beaches, which issue warnings of possible or imminent danger. By simply paying attention to the advice given, beach-goers can better safeguard themselves, making the work of the lifeguard easier.