Lifeguards will staff all beaches, despite shortage
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
The staffing shortage that led to a cutback in the city's popular Junior Lifeguard Program this summer will not cause any of the city's 22 beaches to go without lifeguards, a city official said.
Normal attrition due to retirements and career changes has resulted in fewer lifeguards this year compared with last, said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department, which oversees water safety operations.
"Our first and foremost duty is public safety," Cheplic said. "We have enough lifeguards on staff to staff the beaches just like we do each and every summer."
A staffing shortage meant the number of Junior Lifeguard Programs for teens, usually offered each summer around the island, had to be cut to just one, at Ala Moana Beach Park. (The North Shore Lifeguard Association will conduct a volunteer Junior Lifeguard Program at 'Ehu- kai Beach Park.)
The program teaches water and watercraft rescue procedures, CPR and life skills to youths ages 13 to 17.
"We lose a certain number of lifeguards every year who move on to become firefighters, or paramedics, or who move away, retire or go back to school," Cheplic said
Complicating matters was that no new lifeguard recruit classes have been held this year, although a recruit class may be held later, Cheplic said.
Because operating the Junior Lifeguard Program means taking on-duty city lifeguards away from the beach, a decision was made to drastically reduce the program this year, Cheplic said.
"We're hoping to restore the Junior Lifeguard program to its full strength next summer," he said.
As in past years, seasonal adjustments will be made, and some lifeguards who were assigned to North Shore beaches during the big-wave and heavier beach-use winter months will shift to south shore beaches, where the surf and beach visitor numbers swell during the summer months.
"If staffing requirements call for three lifeguards at a particular tower, we will have three lifeguards. If it calls for at least two, we will have two," Cheplic said.
City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, who chairs the council's Public Safety and Services Committee, said no one has come to him with concerns that a dwindling number of city lifeguards might result in city-owned public beaches having to go without lifeguards.
"I certainly hope that would never be the case," Dela Cruz said.
But in at least one instance, a beach park built by developer D.G. "Andy" Anderson in exchange for approval of his subdivision project near Velzyland on the North Shore has gone unused for the past eight years because the city never funded a lifeguard position for the park, Dela Cruz said.
"The city administration ordered across-the-board budget cuts, but hopefully, as the budget is being reviewed by the council, I would hope the cuts are done in a more surgical manner," Dela Cruz said.