Above, instructor cadre reviewing beach warning flag criteria in 2019.
By Mike Hudson
In 2017, Sea Bright (NJ) Ocean Rescue began a very aggressive water safety program aimed at school age children and teenagers from the shore areas of Monmouth County, Ocean County, and Neptune Township. The Water Safe program is three-tiered training program that focuses on the primary causes of childhood drowning according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).
Tier One (starting in 2017) involves our lifeguard team traveling to the local schools during the spring months to present a graphic and realistic PowerPoint presentation focused on the dangers of activity in unguarded ocean and river waters, including video of actual drowning resuscitations by beach lifeguards. We also stress the preventative actions that all children and parents should take to protect themselves at the beach and in the water. This presentation includes International Life Saving Federation (ILS) and USLA warning flag criteria as well as a robust rip current safety section, with special attention given to different ways to escape a rip current, including using the “Willis Way.” Since 2017, we have educated more than 700 children and school officials who have attended these presentations.
Tier Two (starting in 2018) involves our lifeguard team in cooperation with the Avon (NJ) school district and the Neptune Aquatic Center. Middle school- and high school-aged children spend three hours in the pool with our ocean lifeguards practicing and reviewing basic water safety skills and water survival techniques. Some of the skills they practice in the pool include survival strokes and floating, treading water, personal flotation device and boating safety drills, human chain rescue races, and call, reach, and throw rescue scenarios. What makes this day so unique is that the children practice lifesaving skills in the water with both their lifeguards and teachers, including the superintendent of the school district, Chris Albrizio. This unique approach to water safety allows the school’s staff to identify any high-risk children who may not have basic survival swimming skills and encourage their parents to change that. So far we have put more than 300 children through this skill-intensive training program.
Above, tips for water safety.
Tier Three (starting in 2018) involves a field trip to the beach to see the lifeguards in action. This gives the kids a firsthand look at the hazards of oceanfront activity and the various safety measures in place at USLA agencies. This is the newest tier to our program as we are developing pertinent curriculum while balancing our risk management of the large group of children at an oceanfront beach.
Mike Hudson, NREMT-P, is chief of Sea Bright (NJ) Ocean Rescue.