Lifeguards say lack of storage is directing their attention away from the water
MAILI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Efforts to improve the beach parks mean lifeguards are spending precious time — moving their gear.
At some Oahu beaches, lifesaving beach equipment is being transported to and from lifeguard towers every day.
That's after storage facilities at those beaches were closed.
The situation is leaving lifeguards frustrated, saying instead of focusing on gear they should be directing their attention toward the water.
At Maili beach, lifeguards arrive by 9 a.m. and wait for the Ocean Safety lieutenant to bring the rescue boards, warning signs, and an ATV from the Waianae substation, which is two miles away.
"What we're doing is we're kind of tying one hand behind their back," said Jim Howe, Emergency Services Director.
"Maili Beach Park is over a mile long. So now they have to run instead of being able to take the ATV. That slows down our ability to warn people, to contact them before they get in a situation and also to respond if they need help."
By the time all of the gear is distributed between the towers, it's half an hour into their shift.
At the end of the day, the reverse has to happen, with the lieutenant packing up the gear to take back to Waianae half an hour before the shift ends.
The equipment used to be readily available, in a closet between the bathrooms at Maili Beach Park. That is, until about eight months ago, when the city's Parks Department renovated the facilities.
They did not get back the access to the closet.
Jet Skis used to patrol the waters from Ewa Beach to Kaena Point are also stored at the Waianae fire station and have to be towed to launch sites every morning.
The shuffle isn't just on Oahu's west side.
At Sunset Beach, erosion almost washed away the storage unit this past winter. Lifeguards there found an off-site alternative across the highway.
"We've got to keep them where they need to be were the equipment needs to be so that we're not slowing down our ability to service the community," Howe said.
This week, the city approved $200,000 for Ocean Safety to buy storage units, which look like car garages, at a cost of about $20,000 each
One will be installed at Maili Beach Park. That could happen by the end of the summer. .
Until then, lifeguards will continue to be without their equipment for about an hour a day.
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