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EDITORIAL: Training must be ongoing for lifeguards

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Training must be ongoing for lifeguards

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The work of lifeguardS can in no way be undervalued and today we praise and commend their service and commitment to monitoring and saving the lives of sea bathers.

The job they do every day was highlighted this week when two of them, Jason Gilkes and David Forde, saved the life of a man at Heywoods, St Peter.

Our lifeguards are men and women who put their lives on the line when they have to rescue swimmers and sea bathers who get into difficulty.

Despite the dangers, theirs is a duty to serve and protect, much like law enforcement officers. Lifeguards do perform an essential service.

It is for this reason that their training must be ongoing, even with current financial constraints.

It is also important that lifeguards continue to be deployed at popular beaches, especially those known to have rough swells.

From time to time, there have been concerns about the safety and well-being of locals and visitors frequenting beaches without the adequate presence of lifeguards. As recently as last year, this concern was heightened as a result of staff cuts by the National Conservation Commission (NCC).

The agency sought to allay fears by pledging that four lifeguards would be deployed at each of the 17 beaches that were supervised.

This was a welcome move, but the question must still be asked as to whether this is an adequate number.

The NCC had said that before last April 30, there were 94 lifeguards and the number was then reduced to 66. Four senior lifeguards were also to be reassigned to reinforce the complement at the 17 supervised beaches.

We endorsed the move then and today we stress that these numbers must be maintained and even strengthened, particularly at beaches known to be potentially dangerous for users.

Government must recognise that the job of a lifeguard is critical and expertise and training are paramount.

Lifeguard Gilkes said his training helped him in Tuesday’s rescue effort.

While there is no doubt that the work of our lifeguards must be recognised, equally it is also important for beach users to adhere to warning signs.

Please don’t ignore the red flags, which warn as serious hazards, and the other signs as they can save your life and that of the lifeguards who put their lives on the line.