18 on guard

Ocean City Beach Patrol Crew Chief Bryan Clark trains Connor Mull, a newly appointed assistant crew chief for the 2020 season. This is a training position and includes Mobile Rescue Unit (ATV) certification as well as leadership training.

(June 12, 2020) Many years ago you would never see the ATVs with guards patrolling the beach.

Back in the 1960s, the area supervisors of the patrol use to run up and down the beach to assist and supervise the guards in their area.

I’m sure it probably helped to keep them in amazing shape, but it certainly decreased their ability to supervise effectively and assist in emergency situations.

Today, each sergeant or area supervisor uses a mobile rescue unit (ATV) to adequately cover and supervise a large area of Ocean City.

Typically, we have multiple ATVs on the beach, each covering a specific area.

These area supervisors encompass the role of a south supervisor (inlet to 23rd Street), middle south supervisor (23rd to 53rd), middle north supervisor (53rd to the Clarion Hotel on 100th) and the north supervisor (100th to the Maryland/Delaware line).

Each of these supervisors provide supervision and leadership for all of the guards in that area, as well as responding to any and all situations that occur in their area during the day.

All operators of a mobile rescue unit must have a minimum qualification as an SRT II (advanced specialized training and over 130 days experience), been promoted to an assistant crew chief position and attend specialized training, which includes an eight-hour ride along with an instructor.

Re-certification is required each year for all mobile rescue unit operators.

Although, not required by state law to operate an ATV off-road, we require a valid driver’s license and yearly copy of a clear driving record.

Although the ATVs may be an annoyance sometimes to the general public enjoying their vacation in the sand, it is one of our most critical pieces of equipment in order to provide the necessary care in a medical emergency.

It really comes down to how quickly we can arrive on a scene, and what equipment we carry on the mobile rescue unit and can deliver to the emergency that matters the most.

First, and most importantly, the operator of the mobile rescue unit has experience with many emergencies and will establish command and control and is in constant communication with all other departments and agencies in and around Ocean City.

The most critical piece of equipment that is carried is an AED (automated external defibrillator), which is an electronic device that is able to diagnose cardiac arrhythmias and treat them with defibrillation (a shock that reestablishes an effective heart rhythm).

CPR does not typically correct a person’s heart rhythm, but rather moves blood throughout the body buying valuable time until defibrillation is available.

This enables us to literally bring people back to life (clinically dead) that are in cardiac arrest on the beach and we have been very successful with these pieces of equipment over the past several summers.

There are over 10 loved ones alive today because we were able to arrive quickly with this critical piece of lifesaving equipment and a highly trained rescuer ready to use it.

Unfortunately, each summer, we have several neck and back injuries due to shore break waves or diving in shallow water as well as other medical emergencies on the beach.

One important role of the ATV is to get the paramedics and their life-saving equipment to the patient as quickly as possible so they can begin assessing the patient and delivering treatment.

When the EMS personnel backboard a patient for removal from the beach and transport to a medical facility, our ATVs provide an easy transport from the beach to the ambulance.

The patient that has been placed on the backboard is lifted and placed perpendicular on the back of the ATV.

The ATV operator drives the patient off the beach while the EMTs maintain the stability of the backboard on the quad.

This helps to reduce the jostling of the patient that would normally occur while carrying a patient off the beach.

There are also several other items we carry daily on the quad.

A BVM (bag-valve mask fitted with a special filter) makes giving breaths during CPR more effective.

A new addition this season is a full set Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for use during a medical response as well as an array of first aid supplies allowing us to respond to minor medical situations.

A clipboard containing pertinent paperwork provides the ability to document important events and incidents. A set of goggles and fins proves advantageous for searches in the water.

We also carry additional sunscreen and first aid supplies for the guards in our area. A rescue buoy mounted to the front of the quad is available for a water rescue.

Many officers also carry additional clothing and supplies on the back of the quad for changes in weather. We all know how quickly the weather can change in Ocean City.

Our ATVs also serve another very important function.

During the course of a day, we deal with several lost children (up to 1,000 each season). Having the ability to search a large area quickly makes finding and reuniting these children with their “panicked” parents much easier.

Our officers on the patrol that ride the ATVs during the day have more than just a few years of experience. Their experience ranges from 15 years to 36 years.

Having someone on scene quickly during an emergency with that kind of experience is very helpful to providing the best care possible for our beach patrons.

Without the ATVs we simply would not be able to move easily from place to place on the beach. We all know how crowded the beach becomes on a nice day.

If we only had trucks and SUVs we would not be able to respond as quickly due to the size of the vehicle.

However, these enclosed vehicles are critical during dangerous weather when we must keep the beach clear.

Being able to move around quickly also enables our sergeants to assist handicap patrons by giving them access to the town’s beach wheelchairs located at several street heads.

When our area supervisors are not responding to a call, they assist the surf rescue technicians in performing their role.

They will see potentially dangerous situations from the back of the beach and can intervene rather than having the surf rescue technician have to get off the stand to deal with a deep hole or an ordinance infraction.

It allows the surf rescue technician to concentrate on those people in the water and our area supervisors can also supervise our personnel and assure they are performing up to or exceeding our high expectations.

With a season that begins early in May and extends to the end of September, the deployment and use of our mobile rescue units changes as we increase or reduce staff depending on if it is the beginning or the ending of our summer season.

Many of our guards are educators or in school themselves. As we have less stands on the beach the distance between stands is greatly increased and the responsibility to backup a surf rescue technician making a rescue is changed from the adjoining surf rescue technician to the area’s mobile rescue unit (ATV).

We also supplement the guard stands with additional mobile rescue units, which consist of one surf rescue technician (rider) acting as the primary rescue swimmer while the other (driver) maintains radio communication and backup during an emergency.

New this year is the addition of two roving gators that the fire department deploys each day with paramedics to respond to medical emergencies on the beach.

You will also see our mobile rescue units on the beach in the morning before the surf rescue technicians go on duty (beginning at 8 a.m.) as well as for a few hours after the surf rescue technicians have left for the day.

Although these mobile rescue units are not out there to “guard” you and your family, they are on the beach so they are close to a needed response if someone makes the foolish decision to go swimming without a lifeguard.

Don’t let that person be you! Remember, “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguards in the stand.”

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