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Here’s The Scoop…Proactive Protection…or P.R. Liability?….LBTS- VFD Ocean Safety Program

LBTS- VFD PROVIDING A FALSE SENSE OF SAFETY?….

There were whispers coming out of the VFD a few weeks back that the department was getting a Jet Ski…but to keep mum until it was official…

Fast forward to an article in the Hi-Riser that came out on Thursday April 16, 2009 …(previous post…scoops) where reference was made to a Jet Ski…Then 2 days later a full page color ad paid for by the VFD Booster Club appeared in the Mc-Furth Times…It was another pretty picture by LBTS-VFD-BTSTimes-official Town photographer Marc Furth of LBTS- VFD Fire Chief Perkins pasted on the  back cover page that shows the newly detailed LBTS-Beach Patrol Sea Doo on the beach  …..(“Now on Duty Deputy Chief Jerry McIntee”…to come soon?)….The text says the Chief is presenting to the “neighbors” with “great pride” a “new piece of beach safety equipment” that the LBTS-VFD purchased with “their own funds”…that “this equipment will be used to search for lost swimmers or drowning victims” and is “a perfect addition to our ever expanding beach safety program”…that it will help “make our beaches just a bit safer for our citizens and visitors”…and finished up with “All VFD future operators of this marine unit are presently in specialized training.”…

NOTE: This writer has made a public request to find out who is doing the specialized training the Chief has announced in print…and will post upon receipt…in a followup post…

I made a call to Lieutenant Gerry Falconer of the Miami Beach Fire Department, Ocean Rescue Division to get his input on the new service offered and what would be required to truly offer such safety to our residents and tourists…

Lt. Falconer was in attendance not too long ago to speak about lifeguards on our beaches…Unfortunately, in this writer’s opinion he along with the other men who made the time to come and speak were severely curtailed in their allotted time and were met with deaf ears from the dais along with a Vice Mayor/Deputy Chief  who declared any lifeguard protection of our beach was a pipe dream and “ain’t gonna happen”…touting the VFD Beach patrol as the only viable alternative…

To her credit Comm. Clottey did want this issue to perhaps be a referendum item…something that still merits discussion with a return to a future agenda…by her or another dais member…

In my phone conversation with Lt. Falconer I explained the purchase of the Personal Watercraft and the use  as explained by the VFD…He was very professional…and explained the difference in protection on the beach along with where to find out more useful information to assure we have the right services…

First there is PROACTIVE beach protection…which means there are lifeguards out on the beach doing surveillance allowing them to respond and/or prevent a situation…

Then there is RESPONSE beach protection which is much like a fire, theft or robbery…after the fact…

Lt. Falconer said you have 4-6 minutes to successfully resuscitate a victim pulled from the water…

The fire department and/or police are referred to as a Recovery Unit…and are still part of any lifeguard patrolled beach in the off hours…

While Lt. Falconer felt adding equipment was “a step in the right direction” …he asked what everybody is asking “Who is going to be operating this stuff?”…

The operators need to be trained by United States Lifesaving Association standards…which a quick look on the USLA site (link below) included a 1000 USLA rescue training hour requirement besides hours of watercraft training time….USLA is the only “Surf Lifeguard” program for beach safety…The Lt. said if a department touts the Red Cross as the certification standard used …”That’s good so long as you’re guarding a a swimming pool!”

On their site ….(link below)…

A section on Certification …right side… click on “more”

Left side…”Public Information”…scroll down to “Lifeguard Library”…and take a look at the following…”Breaux vs. Miami Beach”- a lawsuit that went to the Fl. Supreme Court….scroll down further to “Effectiveness A Report of the Working Group”…( both of these reports were sent to the Mayor and the Town Attorney by Lt. Falconer after the Commission meeting he attended…He has not heard back from either or the Town)…

Then….scroll down to the bottom….”Training and Equipment Guidelines using Personal Watercraft as a Rescue Tool”..which shows the criteria required to truly enable the safety of of both the victim and the rescuer….

Lt. Falconer added one last piece of information…right next door we have a first rate USLA Rescue Training Department in Fort Lauderdale…(link below)….

BC- Now what concerns this writer is the previous “cut to the chase” mentality of the Deputy Chief of the VFD and the unfortunate departure of Lt. Scot Fowler (previous VFD posts)…who was indeed the person that could have offered the correct program for training this new VFD program…Unless he has returned,( as stated by the VFD Chief would occur)… it is troubling if these VFD- Beach Patrol  “operators” are being trained as they were on the ATVs…substandardly…

Also, what about the liability to our Town?…A look at the above case on the USLA site shows we leave a wide open door in the VFD “advertising” such water safety protection covering our beaches…

We were not allowed to put warning flags up, and the Vice Mayor/Deputy Chief himself is on record along with his BFF Comm. Silverstone saying these warning flags could not be initiated due to the FACT that if the VFD was neglectful in putting up or taking down the flags and an accident happened the Town would indeed  be liable!…So how is this okay?…

Once again ….we have “blurry lines” with the Town/VFD and what is the joint/independent responsibility of each…

United States Lifesaving Association link below…

http://www.usla.org/

Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue link below…

http://ci.ftlaud.fl.us/oceanrescue/index.asp

more to come….

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