Community Commentary: Lifeguards remain vital for Newport

May 31, 2011|By Mitch White

In an attempt to clear up her comments, Councilwoman Leslie Daigle managed to clear up only one thing (Community Commentary: Official clears up lifeguard services comments," April 22): She does not have any idea what the permanent lifeguards do for the city of Newport Beach. She suggests they are only needed for water safety, and described the beach as having three distinct regions — the water, the beach (sand) and the boardwalk.

I have lived in the Newport area my whole life and have worked as a lifeguard for more than 35 years, and the beach is considered everything from the homes and businesses out into the ocean.

This includes the parking lots, piers, jetties, groins, boardwalk and sand. Lifeguards provide essential protection to all of these areas. They're also responsible for medical aids (bicycle accidents, heart attacks, diabetic emergencies, allergic reactions and more), public assists (lost persons, disabled visitors, etc.), mitigation of conflicts and preventative actions (warnings of dangerous water conditions, holes and tunnels in unstable sand, and dangerous beach games).


The permanent lifeguards are constantly multitasking while on the beach patrolling. Along with this, they have to continue to update their training programs to be sure they have the most up-to-date information being taught each year to the 200 seasonal guards. As the lead training officer for the Basic Lifeguard Academy for more than 10 years, I know all lifeguards were taught total beach protection.

My point is these permanent lifeguards do a great deal more than just look at the water. Many lives have been saved because of the quick action of these patrolling lifeguards. In medical calls on the beach (boardwalk included), lifeguards are first on scene.

In fact, when lifeguards merged with the Fire Department 15 years ago, they were added to the 911 dispatch system. The lifeguards were designated as "first in area" to all beach-related events, including the oceanfront homes. All permanent lifeguards are EMTs (same as firefighters), and have the same medical aid equipment in their truck as a fire rig.

The beach is the main asset in Newport; look around when you drive through town, and you will see murals, signs and more depicting the beach and lifeguards.

If you cut these positions, and cut a rescue boat during peak season, you will surely be in the same boat as Huntington Beach, which is being sued for the drowning of two men last summer. The lawsuit states that H.B. did not have enough lifeguards present (H.B. cut staff and hours last summer), and it did not warn the swimmers of the dangerous conditions.

City Manager Dave Kiff, prepare for your lawsuit

MITCH WHITE is a veteran Newport Beach lifeguard and Costa Mesa resident.

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