In good hands

Lifeguard Rex Beach practices rescue techniques at Coquina Beach.
Lifeguard Rex Beach practices rescue techniques at Coquina Beach. - Cindy Lane | Sun

Congratulations to Manatee County Marine Rescue for being named The Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association Beach Patrol of the Year.

It wasn’t too long ago that it seemed the lifeguards in the towers at Manatee County and Coquina Beaches were little more than an afterthought.

Salaries were closer to what teenagers would receive during a summer job than what a professional would want as base for a career. They didn’t have the type of insurance coverage that other professionals who put their lives on the line had. Morale was low and the county constantly needed more lifeguards. Manatee County commissioners worked hard to increase the budget and finally, they got it done.

Joe Westerman, a sergeant in the ranks, was promoted to Marine Rescue Chief and more personnel were hired. These people are trained in rescue and resuscitation and also trained to keep an eye on the parking lots and areas other than the Gulf and beach. They played a role in the evacuation during Hurricane Irma last year.

In 1976, the movie “Lifeguard” showed a California lifeguard, played by Sam Elliott, who was still patrolling the beaches in his 30s. Most of his fellow lifeguards had gone on to other pursuits and younger men took their jobs. He had outgrown the job, but he was still eager to do the job.

Today, lifeguards get more technical training to be prepared for more types of emergencies and they rightfully expect more pay as they stay and turn their jobs into professions.

Who would you prefer to rely on in an emergency – somebody trained and ready to do the job or a high-schooler on summer vacation?

Protecting lives is not for amateurs and we feel the county is on the right track. Those people in the towers with binoculars and radios aren’t there for the sun or the surf. They’re responsible for the lives of everyone out there.

Congratulations to the entire Marine Rescue crew. Let’s hope the county keeps up its funding efforts to improve beach safety with professionals who are dedicated to their duties.

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