Monday, August 15, 2005

Lifeguarding the Beach

The rival perspectives of two prominent Pensacola publications continue to confound and confuse readers. Both visited the beach recently.

One found unhappy lifeguards eager to blow the whistle on inadequate training by the Santa Rosa Island Authority government. The other reports more lifeguards on duty than ever before, increased saves, zero drownings, and a crew so happy they cheerfully re-built their own lifeguard towers "even though they had no background in carpentry [and] they worked 10-hour days to rebuild the wooden structures."

The widely-read but often gossipy "Buzz" column of the Independent News (formally known as the Independent Florida Sun) in its August 11 issue reports that as many as half of all Pensacola Beach lifeguards have not been trained in CPR.
Lifeguards are blowing the whistle, not on beachgoers, but on Santa Rosa Island's Water Supervisor David Greenwood and Public Safety Director Bob West.

They claim the officials, despite American Red Cross rules and state laws, are allowing up to half of the barrier islands lifeguards to watch ocean-goers, even though they do not have the proper CPR certification.
It appears the weekly newspaper has at least two confidential sources among the lifeguard staff. One of them "claims many of the lifeguards lack training on medical equipment." The newspaper says he (or she) is afraid of being fired for talking about it.

Two weeks earlier, Fredie Carmichael of the Pensacola News Journal provided a more comforting story. He reported that an all-time high of 34 staff lifeguards at Pensacola Beach have broken all records for lives saved this year:
While there have been no drownings along the 8.5 miles of Santa Rosa Island Authority-controlled beach in nearly two years, the 607 rescues are up from 374 rescues all of last year, said Dave Greenwood, water safety supervisor for Pensacola Beach."
Recent storms have made conditions trickier than usual, with shifting sand bars, deep drop-offs, and stronger rip currents. No one wants to talk about it, but locals also report there's still a lot of hurricane debris beneath the waves.

So, what's the truth? Are Pensacola Beach lifeguards more numerous and better skilled than ever, or has the era of life-saving improvements at Pensacola Beach come to an end?

And, while we're asking questions, do you think those lifeguards working "10-hour days" got paid time and a half?

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