In this line of work saying “What If?” can be dangerous. Would this bad thing had happened if we had or hadn’t……? It’s better to use all the data and statistics you have coupled with what your team’s cumulative experience is. Sprinkle in what your gut tells you and shake it up- then decide a course of action. Once you’ve made the call its best to not torment yourself with second guesses.
This past weekend could have been full of those moments if any of us had time for introspection. At one point we had three calls working almost simultaneously on Monday. A jet ski floating around in the bay with no owner, an unconscious man at Stewart Beach that had been in the water, and a possible drowning at East Beach stretched our resources to the limit. Fortunately all ended well for those situations but it really made us appreciate our partner agencies who were there with us for these three events and for many others throughout the weekend. We really can’t say thank you enough for the CERT Team (Strike Team #1) whose public safety volunteers helped to move several hundred people out of the waters of the San Luis Pass, Galveston Fire/EMS/Police and Park Board Security and Park Staff who were there at every major event, Jamaica Beach Fire Rescue, the Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network who offered free counseling to lifeguards who gave CPR to a submerged man, and to our amazing National Weather Service Houston/Galveston office who kept us up on the latest weather all the way through the weekend. It’s good to have partners and friends who are there when you need them most.
Mostly though I’d like to thank my staff who did an unbelievable job protecting hundreds of thousands of tourists in unbelievably rough water, blasting wind, and the most adverse conditions imaginable. Many worked longer hours and extra shifts when it became obvious that this was an exceptionally challenging and dangerous situation. By the end of the weekend they’d moved over 3,000 people away from rip currents and closer to shore, made rescues, reunited lost kids, treated medical emergencies, enforced rules, and offered water safety and tourist information to hundreds.
I’d like to finish by doing what I said I shouldn’t and asking two big “What ifs?”
The first is what if Supervisor Kris Pompa and several others on our staff hadn’t taken my early spring challenge to provide water safety talks to at least 8,000 kids in the Houston/Galveston area? Kris was on the road for over two months sometimes hitting as many as three schools a day. By May 1st he’d exceeded all expectations by providing beach water safety instruction to 16, 761 students! Each of them spread that info to families and friends. We’ll never know how many accidents will never happen as a result.
Finally, what if Galveston and the Galveston Park Board didn’t provide us the resources to staff those towers, trucks, and boats?