Drowning Prevention for the City of Galveston

Swimming Safety- English

Swimming Safety- Spanish

 

For a downloadable version of the brochure, click here.

Ben Carlson

Ben Carlson, a 32 year old lifeguard from Newport Beach went out on a fairly routine rescue last week just off Balboa Peninsula. He jumped off the back of a rescue boat and made contact with his victim just as a big set of waves hit both men in the impact zone.

Ben was a very experienced waterman. He competed in beach lifeguard events regularly, was a big wave surfer, and a high level college swimmer. He was one of the top athletes that worked for Newport Beach, which is in the epicenter of USLA lifesaving talent. Throughout his decade and a half career he made several hundred rescues.

The waves were reportedly 6-8 foot, which means the wave that hit him likely had a 12 foot face. Other lifeguards were able to rescue the victim when he surfaced, but Ben didn’t come back up. Any water rescue is very risky. One small thing like getting poked in the neck or choking on water can mean the difference between the rescuer surviving or not making it. But with that much water moving around there’s a million ways that rescue could have gone wrong.

One of my best friends is Rob Williams, who is Chief of the Newport Beach lifeguard service. We’ve known each other for years through the United States Lifesaving Association. Currently he is the Treasurer and I’m the Vice President. He, their Beach Patrol, and the community is going though one of the worst things that can happen to a group- the loss of a hero. From the sound of it Ben was everything you’d want in someone to represent your community. I hope we never have to go through that here. Rob and I have had several conversations about the inherent risks of the job, how many people our beaches deal with annually and the odds of something like this happening.

Lifeguards from all over California, surfers from the region, Ben’s family and friends, and many others participated in a traditional “paddle out” ceremony last Sunday. This is a way for surfers, lifeguards, and other water people to celebrate the life of a fallen comrade. Some say its origins come from ancient Hawaiian culture, but most historians believe it has its roots just after the turn of the 20th century. Wherever it came from it is practiced all over the world where there are beaches. It usually involves people paddling out on a surfboard or other craft, forming a circle, telling stories, and putting flowers in the center. Sometimes ashes are put in the water. The ceremony can be religious or secular in nature.

Ben’s paddle out was exceptional. According to the LA Times 5,000 people watched from the pier and shore and there were approximately 2,500 people in the water. There’s a really well done video that’s worth a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEpHEaGQUUI&feature=youtu.be . This may be the largest paddle out ceremony in known history.

There is no more fitting way to say good bye to a water person.

 

Ben Carlson paddle out

 

 

Community Pool

We don’t see a lot of children drown on the beach like you do in inland waterways, pools, drainage ditches, wells, etc. That’s why last weekend when we almost lost a 3 year old it shook us up. Fortunately the little girl was only under for a short time before parents, bystanders, and the area lifeguard were right on top of it. The guard started artificial respirations immediately and she ended up being OK after a couple of days in the hospital. No drowning is good and one involving a child is especially tough. We were happy to end a holiday weekend of very hard work and long hours with no drownings on the island. But there is much, much more to the chain of drowning prevention besides an effective lifeguard service.

The number one way to prevent drowning is to learn to swim. In the United States Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14. 70% of African American children, 60% of Hispanic children and 40% of Caucasian children cannot swim. We live on an island where no one is more than a mile and a half from water. Unfortunately it’s not the kind of water you can learn to swim in. In fact it’s really dangerous to try to teach a kid to swim in the beach or in open water. Unlike most of the cities in our area we have no public pool in which to teach swimming lessons or provide other aquatic programs in. According to USA Swimming, the risk of drowning drops 88% by participation in formal swimming lessons.

The good news is the most recent attempt to build a community pool is coming close to success. They have raised 1.7 million, which is almost half the needed funds and have 1.9 million to go (that’s only $50/person on the island).  They recently received a big challenge grant from the Moody Foundation and need to raise the balance to receive it.

In my opinion the plan is solid and choosing the site of Lasker Park is right on the mark. The city already owns the land. 69% of the kids on the island live within two miles of the site. There will be two pools, one a shallow walk-in pool with water features and slide. The other is a competitive eight lane pool. Programs will include swimming lessons, training for rescue teams, life guard training, water aerobics and swimming competitions, scuba classes and more; all of which will generate income.

Your help and support is needed to make the community pool a reality.  Donations of any size will help meet the Moody Foundation’s challenge grant.

Tax deductible gifts (checks or MasterCard or Visa) may be sent to Galveston Community Pool, c/o Barbara Sanderson, Director, Parks and Recreation, McGuire Dent Recreation Center, 2222 28th St, Galveston, TX 77550.  Phone: 409-621-3177.

This is the same community that elevated the island and built the seawall. A pool should be easy if we all pitch in.

 

Community Swimming Pool

4th of July Tips

If you’re like several hundred thousand others, you’ll be heading to the beaches on or near Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula this weekend. For many, the beach is a perfect place to spend time with your friends and family while you enjoy some Texas or Tejano style BBQ, surf, and sand. Some 3-500 thousand people will likely be on the island this weekend and we would all really like to see all of them get home safely. There are several ways to do that.

The main thing is to swim near a lifeguard. You chances of drowning in an area protected by guards trained to the minimum standards set by the United States Lifesaving Association are 1 in 18 million. The Galveston Island Beach Patrol is certified as an “Advanced” agency by this group, which is their highest level. You are responsible for your own safety but guards provide a valuable additional layer of protection.

Rip currents are the cause of 80% of rescues made in the surf. In Texas the strongest rip currents are found near structures like rock groins and piers. That’s why on the seawall the guard towers are near the groin and why we put signs and ropes in the area. Stay away from the rocks and while swimming check the shoreline to make sure you’re not drifting near them without realizing it.

The ends of the island are very dangerous with strong periodic tidal flows. You should not swim or wade in the areas of the San Luis Pass and the Houston Ship Channel. Both ends of the island have a long history of drownings. Both ends are now heavily patrolled but it only takes a few seconds for tragedy to strike.

Now that the Texas heat is on us be sure and take extra precautions for the heat and sun. Use sunscreen with a high SPF, wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and stay hydrated. If you start feeling nauseous, weak, or dizzy you could be feeling the effects of the sun and should rehydrate and seek shade.

Be sure you keep your kids in sight and get in the water with small kids or kids that are poor swimmers. Stay close to shore. Strong currents all week mean there are deep troughs near the shore so be extra careful.

In case you haven’t heard, most of the Caribbean and Gulf has been heavily impacted by Sargassum. The Park Board maintenance department has been working unbelievable hours to keep the beaches looking nice. Stewart Beach, East Beach, and the Seawall are the most clear. Over the weekend the Galveston Park Board is sponsoring beach “Bucket Brigades” where kids can join a tour led by marine biologists to learn about the environmental benefits of seaweed and how it is a habitat for marine life.   Look for our beach volunteers wearing bright orange t-shirts while out on the beach or visit www.galvestonbeachinfo.com.

Well be out in force, so check with the guard when you arrive for specific information and have fun!