(July 5, 2019) Thirty-eight new lifeguards will take the stands this summer after completing the Ocean City Beach Patrol Rookie Graduation on Thursday, June 27.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent out here,” Lt. Jeff Brabitz said during the test on Thursday. “They’ve been instructed on everything they’re supposed to do and today we’re just looking to see if they remember everything, familiarize and celebrate their accomplishments.”
During the Rookie Graduation ceremony, participants who trained in the Surf Rescue Academy had to successfully complete seven stations set up at the inlet beach. They had 15 minutes to complete each station.
In the first station, rookies coordinated with the Ocean City Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources in an assisted rescue where victims were swimming too close to the jetty’s sharp rocks lining the edge of the inlet shoreline.
“They come motivated,” Capt. Butch Arbin said. “To sign up, to show up to a whole day of testing, go through a week-long academy – which is very stressful – it’s physically and mentally demanding, and for them to come out on the other end is great.”
The second station involved teamwork in a rescue for a victim who swam out too far with the assistance of a land line, a bright yellow rope used to help pull the swimmer and lifeguards back to shore.
Medical attention was the primary focus of the third station, where rookies had to practice the removal of victims and stabilization of neck or back injuries. Another team effort, multiple lifeguards had to attempt to stabilize a victim with a potential neck injury in the water.
The fourth station required the use of paddleboards to practice entering and exiting the surf to complete a rescue.
Teamwork was another key role in the fifth station, where rookies had to work together to locate a submerged victim. Typically, this type of action is required when a struggling victim is too exhausted to swim any longer or becomes unconscious.
At the sixth station, rookies learned how to launch jet skis into the water to assist in a long-range rescue. Graduates pick up and turn the jet ski, manned by a veteran lifeguard, and push it into the water.
“They love the job, they want to do it and we don’t have problems getting people to return because once they have the job they love it,” Arbin said.
For the seventh and final station, lifeguard prospects ran 300 meters and collaborated to recover a “victim” that was buried in a sand hole.
Once all stations were completed by each group, the rookies lined up and ran past veterans and family members to shake hands with Arbin, signifying the end of their training and the beginning of their careers as lifeguards.
This year there were 30 less rookies compared to 2018, but a higher return rate from veteran guards, Arbin said.
“Today’s youth are not as physically active as they used to be,” Arbin said. “We still get athletes but the percentage of that age group – 18-22, which is our hiring age – is just less active.
“We have less but the quality is the same, because we only accept a certain quality,” he continued. “We’ve still got incredibly good athletes. They’re motivated, they’re personable, they’re exactly what we’re looking for.”
Graduates receive the temporary role of probational surf rescue technicians until they complete four requirements to be promoted to surf rescue technician step one. In order to be promoted graduates need to perform the following:
• Work 21 days on a stand (one day has to be at least 3.5 hours) after successful completion of Surf Rescue Academy, without any policy infraction or employee incident. A policy infraction will re-start the 21-day count
• Obtain three weeks of satisfactory written performance evaluations
• Pass a semaphore communications test
• Attend and complete Rookie Graduation
Anyone seeking employment with the Ocean City Beach Patrol must successfully complete all aspects of an eight-phase pre-employment physical skills evaluation.
Testing for Ocean City Beach Patrol to work next summer will be offered in Ocean City, with the first opportunity on Saturday, Aug. 3. Seven additional opportunities will be offered both in Ocean City and throughout the region.
Prior to the start of the academy and each year they return to the patrol, lifeguards must pass a mandatory drug test.
During the Surf Rescue Academy, each rookie is trained and assessed in all necessary skills, techniques, procedures and protocols of the beach patrol.
For more information, visit www.ococean.com/ocbp or call 410-289-7556.