**All photos were taken prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ocean City Beach Patrol has proudly kept residents and visitors on the island safe since 1930 and this tradition continues for the summer of 2020.
Butch Arbin, captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol since 1997, says that while the COVID-19 pandemic has led to swift changes in daily operations, testing, and training, the Beach Patrol’s commitment to safety and wellness remains strong.
The latest data released by the Beach Patrol for the last week in May shows a significant decline in preventions and rescues from last year. Captain Arbin says that these declines are not related to the coronavirus. “We make rescues when there are rip currents, and that’s really what all we deal with in Ocean City. Rip currents all depend on wave action, so some years it is lower and some years it is higher.”, says Arbin.
While the latest data may not have been impacted by the pandemic, the same cannot be said for guard testing and training. Arbin says that “some tests were on March 1st in Salisbury, but three off-site testing programs were canceled. Then, we added two tests for Memorial Day weekend.” Despite the cancellation of a few test programs, employment is higher than it has been for several years, which is great news as more people leave quarantine and head to the ocean.
Health and wellness were key at the testing programs over Memorial Day, as both physical distancing and strict health checks were put in place. “We had cones every six feet, a health check for every person before they tested in the water, and people tested separately to minimize contact.”, says Arbin. He even adds that mannequins were used instead of people while conducting tests.
Employees in each training academy session have taken similar precautions, though some interaction is necessary to ensure that the guards will be prepared to tackle every situation that comes their way on the beach.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As the summer season begins and the spread of the virus slows, but continues nonetheless, guards are to keep their distance from beachgoers as much as possible. Arbin says that health checks are completed each day for every employee and they are even providing the Beach Patrol with PPE, which includes gloves and N-95 masks. The patrol is even fitting guards for these masks, to make sure that they indeed work. Arbin reminds visitors that masks won’t be worn by guards in their stands, but as soon as they interact with people on the ground, you’ll certainly see the use of extensive PPE. Mobile units are also being supplied with face shields and gowns, keeping them protected on the ground.
Reassurance for Families
When it comes to the recent unrest on the Boardwalk, Arbin says the beaches have not had any problems. “Personnel wise, we have more guards than ever before. We really don’t have any problems, it has not been any different than any other year.”, says Arbin. On the other hand, he says that it has been difficult to enforce physical distancing with high school seniors, yet Senior Week is now over.
Employment: Summer 2021
If you’re looking for a job for the summer of 2021, the Ocean City Beach Patrol can guarantee you employment by the end of this summer if you attend one of the four testing dates already posted for August. If you do not test in August, several other dates are scheduled for the offseason. Additionally, the captain says that he can assist guards with finding housing and connecting them with other employees.
Arbin wants visitors to remember that like any other year, you should not swim when a lifeguard is not on duty. “98% of drownings occur when we aren’t working”, says Arbin. This statistic serves as a stark reminder that swimming while the Beach Patrol is on the sand (10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. seven days a week) is paramount. Arbin also says to check with a guard about the current water conditions before heading out. These metrics are also updated daily on the Beach Patrol’s website.
When you venture down to Ocean City this summer, be sure to stay safe all while enjoying the bright sun and sand!
Click here for more information about the beach patrol.