Have You Spotted Them?
Everyone loves a sunny and safe day at the beach- especially Ocean City’s Beach Patrol. Patrolling the beach beginning the Saturday of Memorial Day all the way until the third Sunday in September after Labor Day, lifeguards are a staple of our beach days. Beach lifeguards watch over vacationers and locals alike from the OC Inlet Rock Pile all the way down to 146th street at the Maryland/ Delaware line. That’s over ten miles of beach! And on that ten mile plus shore line, swimmers are lucky enough to be protected by over 170 beach patrol members.
Keeping a keen eye out on vacationing families is not a job lifeguards take lightly. Lieutenant Mike Stone states, “Our Mission Statement includes three very important words, “Education, Prevention, & Intervention”. We pride ourselves on communicating with the public about things they need to be aware of based on where they go to the beach. Things to consider are obviously the weather, but high & low tide, rip currents, underwater obstructions are just a few of the other important points we like to cover. Being aware of your swimming ability in the ocean is extremely important, especially if you’re new to the area.”
However there is much more than patrolling the beaches. Stone, a 38 year patrol veteran, explains, “I am responsible for assignments, days off, creating a weekly schedule (including special duties), payroll, & helping Captain Arbin run the OCBP on a daily basis.” And that’s just Stone. There are several other members on staff that work day in and day out to make sure the OCBP runs smoothly.”
What Are They Saying?
Everyone must know! What in the world are the lifeguards talking about with those brightly colored orange flags? “We are usually spelling out abbreviations and or words,” the Lieutenant comments. “Most of the time it has to do with lost & found children as we work quickly to reunite family members.” Want to give it a go? You can practice your semaphore alphabet in the off season. Maybe you can even talk to the lifeguard in code yourself.
While vacationers are bundled up in their winter coats and sipping hot chocolate, the OCBP stays busy doing things behind the scenes. “Cleaning & painting stands, laundry, inventory, repairing & ordering new equipment, testing (PEPSEs), recruiting, recruiting, recruiting!! Captain Arbin also works on our budget for the City and has several meetings with our Director & other city Personnel.”
Did you know that being a part of the OCBP can be a year round job? “We have one FT, year round employee (Lt. Ward Kovacs) and he spends the off-season preparing things & ordering equipment/supplies. We have a few officer work weekends and some off site employment testing (PEPSE events).”
Did I Mention Recruiting?
Usually the minimum age to become a lifeguard in Ocean City is 17, however Stone says that there are some exceptions. “With proper experience & supervisor recommendation(s), we have some 16 year olds who are able to pass our PEPSE test and become an SRT (beach Lifeguard).” In addition to the PEPSE test (Pre-Employment Physical Skills Evaluation), trainees are also given CPR and First Aid training.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Why not try? This Saturday, October 8th, the OCBP is hosting a test! “Candidates can register as well as get more information about the PEPSE test & pay,” Stone encourages. For more information about becoming a lifeguard or taking the PEPSE test, please visit https://oceancitymd.gov/oc/departments/emergency-services/beach-patrol/employment/. And good luck! We’re rooting for you!
Thank you to Lieutenant Mike Stone of Berlin for taking the time to answer our questions.