(Sept. 24, 2021) I often get asked how many guards it takes to cover all 10 miles of Ocean City.
The answer really depends on what time of year it.
On a typical day in the middle of summer, the answer is a simple 91. However, during the early and late parts of summer, our numbers may be different based the number of people that we have available to work.
A majority of our surf rescue technicians range in age between 18 and 22, and are currently working on a college degree, which may affect their availability during the “shoulder” times of summer.
With 91 stands, it takes a minimum of 127 surf rescue technicians to just cover these stands, lunch shifts and days off.
However, based on the typical workweek of a surf rescue technician, which is five and a half days, it takes additional guards to cover days off, special duties, training, Junior Beach Patrol camp, and all of our many outreach programs.
In order to schedule such a large number of personnel, the Beach Patrol is organized into 18 crews, and each crew is made up of seven to nine guards. A crew chief and assistant crew chief manage each crew on a daily basis.
In addition to the surf rescue technicians, the Beach Patrol also employs surf beach facilitators, who monitor the daily surfing beaches.
The leadership of the patrol is made up of a captain, one first lieutenant, two second lieutenants, 11 sergeants, and one training officer.
The one leadership position you are most likely to notice is our area supervisors (sergeants) who patrol one of four areas along the beach on ATVs.
At the beginning of summer, in early June, our numbers may be slightly lower due to a couple of reasons.
First, the water in the beginning of June is slightly colder and the crowds are a little smaller requiring fewer guards.
This enables us to fully staff our Surf Rescue Training Academy, which trains all of our new lifeguards for the job. We typically hold two academies, one the week before Memorial Day weekend and the other occurs in the middle of June.
During this intense 60-plus hour week, our guards learn everything they need to know to be successful surf rescue technicians.
Many people don’t realize that we do not require or accept certifications from other agencies. All of the training and certifications are provided by the Beach Patrol during a paid Surf Rescue Training Academy.
Toward the end of August and the month of September, we experience a reduction in staffing due to the fact that our personnel must return to other obligations.
As previously mentioned, many of our guards are attending colleges and universities all over the country, all with different starting dates.
Additionally, a good portion of the people that hold leadership roles on the Beach Patrol are professional educators at school systems and colleges throughout the country and return for professional activities at least one week prior to their students.
These teachers are some of our most experienced surf rescue technicians and mostly in supervisory roles on the beach.
After Labor Day we lose all our educators during weekdays, although many are returning to help cover our beach on the weekends.
During this time of year, you will notice a larger distance between stands. This trend continues until our last day of the season, which is Sunfest Sunday, This season our last guarding day will be Sunday, Oct. 3.
On the weekends, the number of stands will increase due to personnel returning from college or teaching responsibilities to work.
Although our coverage this time of the year is done with fewer personnel and lifeguard towers than during peak season we supplement this coverage by increasing the number of Mobile Rescue Units patrolling the beach. These mobile units are first-aid and AED equipped with one surf rescue technician (rider) acting as the primary rescue swimmer while the other (driver) maintains radio communication and backup during an emergency.
Both are qualified as surf rescue technicians, medical first responders and are quad (ATV) certified.
This time of the year, we ask that you walk and swim in front of the nearest lifeguard. This short walk is worth the lives of you and your family.
For additional information, please call Beach Patrol headquarters. Guard stand placement may relocate daily as conditions change.
To locate the closest stand to your beach you may go to the official Beach Patrol website (ococean.com/ocbp) and scroll down to the “Beach Conditions” table and click on the stands location link or by calling Beach Patrol headquarters at 410-289-7556 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
And always remember, “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguards in the stand”!