Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Community Post: Lifeguards at Sands Beach?

Eckermann had a good idea for a post -- talk amongst yourselves. -- Sara

Sara, let's talk about something important. Recently, a teenage girl died in a surfing accident at Sands Beach in Goleta, a tragedy beyond endurance for any who loved her.

My question, when such things happen, is could they have been prevented? It is a little known fact that the most common form of death in the California State Park system is drowning. When the data is disaggregated, it is interesting to note that drownings in "guarded water," that is water at which a State Park Lifeguard is stationed, are very rare, and in most years, nil.

Such data suggests to me that we, as a community, should consider finding a way to put trained lifeguards at Sands Beach. Of course nothing we can do would reverse this tragedy. However, I have always subscribed to the theory of learning from one's mistakes and making every effort to avoid repeating them.

Of course it may cost up to $50,000 to $60,000 a year in salaries and equipment to staff a lifeguard tower at Sands Beach. What is the worth of a single life? What say you bloggers?

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Anonymous Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus said...

Mountains without handrails.

Beaches without lifeguards.

Deal with it.

4/07/2009 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Personal responsibility said...

If so many people drown in the water, the better suggestion is to tell them to stay out of it. Ocean swimming is a dangerous activity. People who choose to indulge in it sign up for the risks they encounter. It is not our duty to pay to protect them from these known and accepted risks.

Harsh, in the face of a recent death? Yes. But c,mon. This activity undertaken by this young lady was fraught with risks, which is often its appeal.

So no, lifeguards are not a good idea. If one life is worth $50,000, then that life should have rethought the risks ahead of time but not demanded she be protected from her own choices.

There has to be an end to taxpayer funded mommy state thinking. I think it ends with a sign entering the water at this unguarded point is at your own risk.

4/07/2009 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Shoreline Shark said...

I have to agree with the first 2 posts. It is impossible to eliminate all risk in life. There will always be dangerous areas where people die, and we'll go bankrupt trying to secure them all.

4/08/2009 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Snarky said...

Ban DiHydrogen Oxide

4/08/2009 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Authentic Frontier Gibberish said...

This "deal with it" is okay all long as it extends to all you homeowners living in the brush covered hills expecting someone to risk their live to save your house and pay for you to rebuild. This list of self reliance can get pretty long if you want to go down that path. We can save a lot of money if we start getting rid of "mommy thinking" and let folks be their own lifeguards, cops, firefighters, nurses, teachers and cover all their own losses, etc. It's all somebody elses problem till it ends up in your lap. Then eveyone starts looking for their lawyer.

4/08/2009 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Soul sick of selfish saps said...

Charade and Personal..clearly you don't have children or the well being of other's children would be of greater concern to you. If there are such unfortunates in your household, they should emancipate for their own safety as soon as possible. Should they be so unfortunate to suffer death from a preventable accident, I'm sure they would appreciate your honoring their memory with the purchase of that new Mercedes SUV, on the way home from the funeral, with their life insurance proceeds. Anything left over can be used to buy larger blinders so you have a greater chance of ignoring the less unfortunate. Better yet, plastic surgery on your eye and ears so you can follow part of the monkey example: See no evil, Hear no evil. You don't get the "speak no evil" piece of it.

A lifeguard is not a guarantee; a lifeguard is an example of a caring society's effort to protect it's citizens. We are told from infancy that we have a moral obligation to the society we live in to do our best to protect its member citizen; and that protection isn't restricted to your lifestyle.

Swimming is not an extreme sport but accidents do happen. Your attitude is a supreme example of the selfish, arrogant, close-minded suffering imposed on this country under Bush's reprehensible feifdom. And as you crank up for your predictable blathering response, remember this; Social responsibilty does not equal socialism. And if that doesn't work for you, remember that Christian principles can extend beyond Sundays.

I don't know about your higher power, but mine is ok with helping others. Thinks it's a pretty good path to walk on. Grab your flip flops and give it a try.

4/08/2009 8:31 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

Wow! I'm astonished how cold-hearted these first posts are. I guess you all don't have much empathy for that sweet teenager who lost her life, or the parents who now have to cope with the death of their beautiful, only child.

I'm ashamed to be part of a species that can be this callous.

The answer is YES! If we can ever get our self-absorbed bureaucrats to rearrange their priorities, maybe we can shift a little funding to provide safety to our public recreational areas. By all means, our community should be able to afford a few lifeguards at our public beaches...unless, of course, we're too busy wasting those precious tax dollars on pet projects, over-paid and underworked executives, etc.

4/08/2009 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Lifeguards make hundreds of rescues in California waters every year. Before there were lifeguards California beaches were the scene of scores of drowning deaths every year. Would the nay sayers on this post go back to those days?

4/08/2009 10:07 AM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...

The numbers by Eckermann are interesting but I dont think they represent a valid picture. I say that in terms of the "guarded" vs "unguarded" numbers. If you go through the state beach system there are many which are not beaches where swimming recreation takes place. They are the more remote, rugged, smaller installations where the activities that take place are more along the lines of a few surfers, scuba fishing, etc which are more high risk activity.

To simply throw out a number without the adequate research and variables, ie numbers of users, location, seasonable incident reports makes it to hard to make a actual judgement. Does he have the breakdowns? even a general idea would be helpful.

The question is also a little misleading as the lifeguard towers at state beaches and our county ones are not staffed until the summer season anyways. So in regards to the current tragedy at Sands it would not have made a difference if there was a lifeguard station in place there now as it would not have been staffed. Is he also asking for year round staffing? The point is interesting but without some actual research and understanding of what is being asked for its hard to make any real sense out of this post other than a knee jerk reaction without any real information to make a decision on.

4/08/2009 10:51 AM  
Blogger goletasurfing said...

How about a lifeguard on the Cold Springs bridge?

4/08/2009 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Cruel Hand Uke said...

Sad time for the young surfer's family and friends. I don't believe there are a lot/any guards at the main surf spots here. As people have indicated here, the best way to avoid an ocean accident or fatality is to never go into the ocean. As we have seen with the Cathedral Oaks tragedy, a lifeguard is no guarantee.

4/08/2009 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Chupacabra, all the research has been done and is posted on many places on the internet. I recommend that you start with the Aquatic Safety page of the State Park's web site. You can also check out the United States Lifesaving Association web site that has links to lots of data. The Huntington Beach Lifeguard Association web site has some good history pages. I did not make this stuff up. The efficacy of lifeguards in open water situations is well documented and beyond dispute. They save hundreds of lives every year nationwide. Whether or not a community feels the cost is worth the benefit is a fair debate. Questioning the effectiveness of lifeguards at preventing death is know-nothing silliness.

4/09/2009 8:02 AM  
Anonymous OPM said...

The cruel indifference here is all the bleeding hearts expecting someone else pay for a mommy state, demanding more and more ludicrous protective services absolving everyone of personal responsibility for their own choices and risk tolerance.

Demand surfers pay to use surf areas and have them pay full fare for an army 24/7 life guards because you never know when surf's up.

4/09/2009 8:47 AM  
Anonymous A mommy states this said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/09/2009 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Dale for Total Safety Everywhere and Always said...

Forget lifeguards at the Cold Spring about armed security details posted at every crosswalk with tire-spikes and video cameras...people think two yellow lines painted on the asphalt will protect them...when that space is actually a kill-zone.

4/09/2009 8:55 AM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...


I dont disagree that lifeguards save lives. I think you were understating what should happen and not looking at the ramifications of what you are asking. At the moment our local beaches are seasonally staffed so it wouldnt have made a difference in the current tragedy even if Sands was a staffed beach.

Looking at the data available the amount of people drowning at CA State Parks is a few dozen or less depending on the year. It also appears that around 40% of that number happens at freshwater locations, and from a variety of sources 25-50% of all drownings involve intoxicants. Its also worth noting that the vast majority of beach visitors are actually to county and municipal beaches so to get a real idea of the numbers those would need to be taken into account.

I also would note the advice of several agencies in the state that tell people dont go in the water at unguarded beaches. Why isnt that a option? Of course its safer at a guarded beach Im not disputing that its common sense but do we need year round staffing then. Thats what it would require to have "guarded beaches" in our area not just at Sands and the cost would be far greater.

I guess my point would be you approached it in a glib fashion without actually considering what you are asking, Would it be fair to staff Sands why not all our local beaches and why not year round? The cost would climb dramatically from what you stated when you tried to simplify the situation. I dont think its being a naysayer or exercising silliness to question if that would be the best use of resources. Is it Sands or should other local beaches who get a higher amount of visitors be first in line if we are truly concerned as a community.

My personal opinion is while it would be nice its not a perfect world. There is a certain amount of risk to the choices we make and people should make their choices accordingly. I also think the question itself is a knee jerk reaction without actually taking into account what the real circumstances are locally in terms of seasonal staffing at our beaches.


4/09/2009 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Chupacabra, it is not quite true that beaches are only staffed in the summer. State beaches have permanent lifeguards year round. It is true that the towers are not staffed until summer (Huntington State Beach staffs towers during Spring Break and on the weekends starting in April) but there are lifeguards on patrol at State beaches year round, and those permanent guards make rescues every year. Other juridictions (counties and cities) also employ permanent lifesaving staff to patrol their beaches year round. Typically there are less vistors to California beaches in the winter and even fewer of those go into the cilly waters. Consequently, there is not as much need the for lifeguards during the winter and early spring. However, if there is even a single permanent lifeguard stationed in an area, and conditions get particularly dangerous or the number of vistors to the area uncharacteristically increase on some weekend, that permanent lifeguard can patrol the area, watch the water, and counsel folks about the water conditions and safety, and be there if an accident happens. I was not being glib. I understand that we cannot patrol every inch of California's vast coastline. Nor can we prevent every alcohol-fueled idiot from practicing Darwinian self-selection. But we can periodically assess where certain unguarded beaches have become popular enough to warrent lifeguards and then determine if we have the resources to fund the service. That is all I am suggesting.

4/10/2009 7:36 AM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...


That seems to be more than reasonable suggestion, thanks for clarifying your position. Have a pleasant weekend.

4/10/2009 1:40 PM  
Anonymous crb said...

These are pleasure activities, sports. If there are to be lifeguards on the beaches where people swim, then tax bathing suits and surfboards to pay for those lifeguards in the same way there are gasoline taxes for road repairs. Potholes and so forth cause accidents.

People, young people, especially, like taking risks. It is of course terribly sad for the parents who can not sit on every beach, every day when their teenaged children go swimming ---- but that's the risk.

Life is risky and for some, taking risks is pleasurable, swimming in rough waters, driving fast, flying in those kite-like flyers.... Lifeguards on busy summer days, sure, but not the rest of the year unless the risk-takers want to pay for it.

Imo, society has no obligation to ensure against all potential risks.....

4/10/2009 2:35 PM  

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