(Sept. 4, 2020) Every year, around this time, we ask, “Where did August go?”
This summer is really one that will go down in the record books as not only being one of the quickest, but also one of the most unique due to the covid-19 situation.
Ocean City has enjoyed some awesome weather just about every day. Everyone is trying to take in all that we can of what is left of the season and make it last as long as possible.
The majority of lifeguards are students or educators and their life away from the beach is calling them back and in many cases, sooner than expected because of changes in school schedules due to covid-19 requirements.
Ocean City Beach Patrol has a large number of surf rescue technicians in college and many others are educators at various levels in school systems throughout Maryland, the U.S. and even Canada.
It is a lifestyle that allows them to have the summers free to pursue their work with the Beach Patrol. This is the time of the year when our surf rescue technicians numbers start shrinking.
As the Beach Patrol strives to maintain the maximum number of guard stands on the beach, vacationers continue to choose Ocean City as a vacation destination.
August seems to be the popular month this year and with several “promotions” to encourage people to make Ocean City their “Work from home” or “Virtual school” location this fall, and we are expecting larger than normal crowds.
This situation becomes the greatest challenge for the patrol as we try to provide the same level of protection for each visitor as when we are at 100 percent staffing.
To complicate matters, this is also the time of year that Ocean City experiences an increase in the volume and size of waves due to tropical activity in the Atlantic.
August and September are traditionally our large surf months, producing larger waves, rip currents and shorebreak.
As we move later into September, fewer guards are left to handle bigger rips and waves. This is when the training and skills they have been honing all summer will be put to use keeping all of our beach patrons safe during these busy final weeks of the season.
Through the scheduling skills of Lt. Mike Stone, who has 36 years with the patrol and works as a local school counselor, we have been able to realize our goal of keeping the maximum number of guard stands on the beach for the maximum number of days.
As a result, we were able to keep all 91 stands (full deployment) on the beach through Sunday, Aug. 16.
As the season continues, surf rescue technicians will have a more challenging situation with the greater distance between stands and a larger area of responsibility.
When we remove stands from the beach, the remaining stands are spread out equally.
Many of these personnel will choose to work without a day off until the end of the season so that we can provide additional coverage and the added safety to swimmers of more guards on duty.
A large number of surf rescue technicians, who have left for other obligations away from the beach, will return on a part-time basis.
The Town of Ocean City is providing a travel stipend to offset the cost of traveling back to Ocean City from areas over 100 miles away, to help encourage as many surf rescue technicians as possible to return once they have moved from the area.
They return to help out on both weekdays and weekends, even scheduling classes to allow availability during several days each week.
Imagine if one guard gets sick or injured and we don’t have someone to cover their stand, which is one less stand on the beach which again makes the distance between stands even further apart.
OCBP is committed to provide surf rescue technicians along the entire 10 miles of beach for all visitors and residents, so rather than have unguarded areas, the number of available lifeguard towers is equally distributed along the beach front.
As this redistribution occurs, the location and distance between stands changes (sometimes on a daily basis and the distance may increase to as much as 800 yards, or a half-mile, between stands, compared to the average 190 yards at maximum mid-season coverage).
We will continue to provide coverage of all 10 miles of Ocean City beach until Sunday, Sept. 27.
Thanks to the support of the Mayor and City Council we will continue to provide this level of coverage whereas nearby beaches have reduced their coverage throughout the season and will be closing down their entire operation earlier than in past seasons due to funding and personnel issues.
Although Ocean City’s coverage will be done with fewer personnel and less lifeguard towers, we will supplement this coverage by increasing the number of mobile rescue units patrolling the beach.
These mobile units are first-aid, AED and PPE equipped with one surf rescue technician (rider) acting as the primary rescue swimmer while the other surf rescue technician (driver) maintains radio communication and backup during an emergency.
Both are qualified as surf rescue technicians, medical first responders and are quad (ATV) certified. Surf rescue technicians will be on duty daily between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
To make sure we end our season and yours safely, vacationers and locals can help the guards and themselves by making the extra effort to swim in front of a lifeguard.
We strongly encourage all beach patrons to restrict any beach or water-related activities to times when beach patrol personnel are on duty, never swim alone, always stay within the limits of their ability and never rely on a flotation device.
Captain’s Note: Thanks to the professionalism and commitment of our surf rescue technicians who are willing to return for several years we have 31 percent of our 200 employees with five or more years’ experience with Ocean City.
What makes this statistic even more amazing is that 88 percent of our employees must relocate to Ocean City each season from their full-time residences and obtain seasonal housing.
If you or someone you know would like to rent seasonally to Beach Patrol employees, contact our office at 410-289-7556.