Tap to add tower guards in the “Dawn to Dusk” program
HONOLULU (KHON2) — In the early morning, there are only a handful of beachgoers walking the sands of Oahu’s north shore.
Some do not know that the swell is rising and the tide is rising as they bring their children close to shore to get closer to a Hawaiian shoreline of 10 feet.
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Most are lucky and return just in time, others are unlucky and the wave begins to pull them out to sea.
If no one sees you drawn in, the winter waves are big enough to keep you from being visible from the shore.
At 9 a.m. the tower guards arrived and immediately began saving lives by preventing people from entering the water.
Tower guards told families to stay away from wet sand. They also warn people without fins not to enter the shore break and surfers who are considering going out with the wrong board to think again.
Every day, tower guards rescue thousands of people before they enter the water.
Because Hawaii’s beaches are becoming increasingly popular, the Dawn to Dusk program was launched by the City and County of Honolulu. It was intended for tower guards to station their towers from sunrise to sunset.
However, staff and budget have been issues for Ocean Safety for years.
The slow deployment now has lifeboat lieutenants and operators responding to 911 calls when the towers are closed, between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The tower guards are not included in the program and leave around 5 p.m. even when the crowds stick around.
“Those two hours are essential to be able to react to something that could have been avoided,” says Racquel Hill, a member of the North Shore Neighborhood Board, who has spoken to and supported North Shore lifeguards for months or even years. .
Ocean Security is part of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and is the least funded department.
According to the City and County of Honolulu FY2021 operating budget Honolulu Police received $312 million, Honolulu Fire $141 million, the EMS division $40 million, and Ocean Safety worked with $17 million.
Hill said more should be given to the ministry, especially when the state promotes Hawaii and its beaches and waters to visitors.
“All of our first responders 1000% deserve all the resources, public services and respect they need to do their jobs,” Hill said. “To see such a gap in this type of budget worries me because in a way it kind of devalues their purpose.”
Discussions are ongoing about whether Ocean Safety should become its own department and have control over its budget and demands for things like safety equipment.
At the end of October, KHON2 was at Shark’s Cove when a swell built up throughout the day. While waiting for an interview with the district lieutenant, a tray began to scroll. To warn divers to prepare for the set and stay clear of rocks, he grabbed a megaphone to relay the message, but it stopped working. He kept trying to get the message across, but the megaphone kept going out.
“This video is extremely discouraging. It takes away the credibility of what we’re trying to produce, it takes away every element of their prevention,” Hill added. And, you know, then what happens? These guys have to physically throw themselves into dangerous conditions to save someone who could have been prevented, and it hasn’t been prevented because they haven’t been given the resources they need or they should have.
the lifeguards union, HGEA, said they are supporting the entire department by working 10-hour days, four days a week, as mobile responders and lieutenants currently do.
But the majority of the department is made up of tower guards, and the fact that guards are working more hours and fewer days means more personnel are needed to cover.
“They’ve been understaffed, and to be honest, their recruiting processes are a bit slow in trying to get lifeguards on board,” HGEA executive director Randy Perreira said.
Perreira explained, “So that will be a factor, but we are more than willing and very interested in trying to arrange these extended hours for the tower guards, as it not only provides a benefit to the employees in terms of a shorter week but clearly an advantage for the public.
“It’s going to take some time, and again, we’re looking forward to at least starting the conversation with the city,” he continued.
Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi has advocated for rescuers and wants to continue the Dawn to Dusk discussion.
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“I want to make sure that we continue to focus on this transition to make sure what we do with this Dawn to Dusk program not only works on paper but works in real time and make sure our rescuers have the time to respond and that those who need help don’t wait too long,” said Tsuneyoshi.