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Lifeguards close in on five-year safety record

FIRST RESPONDERS: Local 461 Lifeguards and Local 508 Supervisors will likely achieve a five-year safety record of no fatalities while on duty at city beaches and pools.

As the 2018 beach season drew to a close, city lifeguards and their supervisors were on their way to achieving an astonishing safety record.

As PEP went to press, there had not been a drowning fatality in five consecutive years.

It takes preparation, teamwork and diligence to achieve a safety record of this magnitude and duration, said Local 508 Lifeguard Supervisors President Peter Stein.

While city residents and visitors enjoy the waves and summer sun, lifeguards are hard at work.

Lifeguards and their supervisors are first responders who are on constant alert to help people at the first sign of danger at the city’s 56 public pools and 14 miles of beaches.

Over the past five summers, Dept. of Parks and Recreation officials estimate there were between 15 and 22.7 million visitors to pools and beaches each season.

Each lifeguard responds to 15 to 20 incidents and medical emergencies a day, the Parks Department estimates. The workers maintain optimum fitness and run rescue drills daily.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, lifeguards and their supervisors are on duty seven days a week, protecting the lives of millions of beach goers — teens and tourists, families and seniors. Their season ends one week past Labor Day.

Parks employs about 1,500 to 1,600 seasonal lifeguards who receive rigorous training at the Municipal Lifeguard Training Program to prepare for beach and pool patrol. They are taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first-aid, rescue techniques, and how to read water currents, riptides, and more.

Many lifeguards are hired at age 16.

“They shoulder a tremendous responsibility beyond their years, carrying the weighty task of safeguarding human life,” Stein said. “These emergency responders are city heroes.”

“Parks hires the best of the best for this job — the fastest, strongest swimmers who are certified and confident in their swimming and rescue abilities,” said City Lifeguards Local 461 President Franklyn Paige.

Both locals have 100 percent union membership and participation. They also regularly volunteer with the union’s Political Action and Legislation Dept. on primary and election days.

“We are very proud of these young men and women and the outstanding safety record they’ve achieved over the past five years,” said DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido.