Marine Rescue #1 in state

Marine Rescue
This lifeguard tower at Coquina Beach is one eight such towers along Anna Maria Island’s beach coastline. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association has awarded its most prestigious award, Beach Patrol of the Year, to the Manatee County Marine Rescue Division.

The award goes to the best agency in the industry in recognition of its elite public service to the community. The award will be presented April 24 at the annual Florida State Surf Lifesaving awards banquet in Manatee County.

Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman said every marine rescue agency in Florida provides top-notch service to the visitors of their beaches, and every nominee could have won the award. Westerman said Manatee County stands out from others this year thanks to its innovative practices such as the county’s new Marine Rescue Paramedic unit and Marine Rescue’s role during Hurricane Irma, when beach lifeguards assisted with traffic control, medical care, victim rescue and patient transport during the County’s Level A evacuation.

“I’m extremely proud of every lifeguard who works hard for this Division ensuring the beaches in Manatee County stay safe,” Westerman said.

“The dedication they show to their profession every day is the reason we succeed. Although the Division received this award, this is an award for our entire county and the leaders who recognize the importance of what our beach lifeguards do every day protecting the citizens and patrons who visit our beaches,” he added.

“We’re very proud of Chief Westerman and the entire Marine Rescue team for earning this prestigious honor,” Public Safety Director Bob Smith said.

Manatee County Marine Rescue consists of 16 full-time lifeguards, including EMTs, paramedics, rescue divers, Coast Guard captains and one certified Dive Master. They patrol Manatee’s public beaches atop eight lifeguard towers and watched over nearly 2.7 million beach visitors last year.