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Here’s The Scoop…We Made The Papers…VFD Expands It’s P.R….But Not It’s Training…

June 7, 2009 by Barbara

SUNDAY JUNE 7, 2009…

full text link below…MIAMI HERALD…

‘For years, swimmers hit the surf at their own risk in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea — there are no lifeguards on the two mile-stretch of beach in this tiny coastal town. But during the past year, the town’s Volunteer Fire Department has escalated efforts to protect beachgoers, including a simple, new safety feature that is already saving lives.

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Volunteer Fire Department designed and built 22 ”life poles,” spaced about 500 feet apart on the sand. Each well-anchored post is equipped with a life preserver and painted with large numbers that make it easier for firefighters to get to the scene quickly.

”People don’t have to worry about landmarks or street names,” said Jerry McIntee, deputy chief of the fire department and the town’s vice mayor. “Call 911, tell what number pole you’re at, grab the preserver and rush to the water to help.”

The rest is up to the town’s 69-member, volunteer firefighter force. Members of the force patrol the beach in two ATVs, mostly on weekends, and are always on call through 911 dispatch.

The fire department added the ATVs in July and more recently acquired a water scooter, a boat and now the life poles. ”The Volunteer Fire Department has made phenomenal improvement in the safety of beachgoers,” McIntee said. “We’ve gone from having no lifesaving tools to having a big component of aid available.”

Two swimmers were rescued May 17 by other beachgoers using the life preservers during the first weekend after installation, said Fire Chief Bob Perkins, the only department employee. Five more people were saved May 24 — three by beachgoers and two by firefighters.

Perkins said he came up with the idea in February because the town couldn’t spend $1.9 million for a full-time lifeguard program.

”We took bids from Pompano and Fort Lauderdale, but the town could not afford to pay . . . the life-rig project took three months to approve and get the poles in the sand,” Perkins said.

McIntee, town commissioner and volunteer firefighter Jim Silverstone and Perkins showed off the new posts during a May 29 tour of the town with U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton.

Klein, who serves coastal cities from Juno Beach to Dania Beach, said the $2,000 project “is just logical. You have numbered posts, life preservers and a simple idea that saves lives — that already saved lives.”

The need for more resources has been crucial.

In August 2008, a couple from North Dakota drowned off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach. In January, a man was found floating near the town’s Anglins Fishing Pier, and in April, a woman from Oregon drowned in the ocean trying to swim to shore after scuba-diving with her husband.

In a 2008 release by the United States Lifesaving Association, a consortium of 102 lifeguard agencies — 23 from Florida’s east and west coasts — reported 20 ocean drownings. Only two of the drownings happened during guarded hours. Of eight drownings attributed to rip currents, seven occurred during unguarded times.

Michael Staugh of Oakland Park, playing with his 17-month-old son, Anthony, at the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach, knows from experience the importance of a protected beach. An employee at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, he carried lifeguard certification for many years and his father was a Dania Beach lifeguard. But Staugh said he felt safer with the poles and life preservers available nearby.

”Its like defibrillators at the airport. Its such a simple thing that saves lives,” Staugh said. “Life preservers at the beach? An excellent idea — money well spent.”’

BC- What this P.R. piece does not say is this does not have to be an “all or nothing” for lifeguards in LBTS…at the purported $1.9 million price tag (avoiding former VFD Scot Fowler’s alternative) ….Many residents are for lifeguards on the beach located at the Commercial Blvd. Pier area that will be designated……and outfitting them with the ATVs…for quick response either way on the 2 mile stretch of beach…Good for swimmers…good for tourism….a win-win…for all…

Also (previously posted 5/26/09 LBTS agenda/meetings cat.) this P.R. piece is lacking in the info presented at the May 26,2009 Comm. Meeting by the VFD Dep. Chief/ VM/ and VFD “Spokesman” McIntee himself that showed a glaring problem with the Sea Doo “rescue” use and training including the 2 “saves”!…OOPS!…

Ratcheting up the P.R. does not usurp ratcheting up VFD training by certified trainers… on and off the beach…or the need for qualified lifeguards!…

more to come….

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