WILDWOOD CREST – Chief Robert Lloyd told the Wildwood Crest Board of Commissioners he would like to have all first responders in the Crest have at least some training in water rescues.
Lloyd said Wildwood Crest currently has no water rescue team and his department depends on Wildwood and North Wildwood when there is an after-hours or off-season incident in the ocean.
“We are the only community on the island without a response team,” said Commissioner Joseph Schiff who oversees the Department of Public Safety.
Schiff said Wildwood and North Wildwood respond to the borough’s calls for water rescues, and he would like to make the offer reciprocal. Schiff said he also worries that the help might not come when the call goes out because the other communities’ first responders are fighting a fire.
Mayor Don Cabrera said he was concerned that the borough was putting employees in harm’s way by asking them to do water rescues. Lloyd said his officers would respond to a water rescue and, if need be, would enter the water to attempt to save lives.
“If I have officers who are going to go into the water anyway – why not train them?” Lloyd said. “It would be best to train them and equip them properly.”
Lloyd said first responders would be certified by the New Jersey State Police at one of two levels: awareness or operations. At the awareness level, first responders would be trained to be spotters and give assistance from the beach. Operations level certification requires a swimming test so that the rescuer could enter the water and remain safe while using a life vest, helmet and throw ropes.
Mayor Don Cabrera, contacted after the meeting, said the training will most likely happen, but the chief’s presentation at the Sept. 21 commissioners meeting was a courtesy to the governing body and the public.
“I think it was more a matter of bringing it to the attention of the public and the full governing body,” Cabrera said.
Thanks to the borough’s commission form of government, public safety falls under Schiff’s oversight. This was just a way to introduce the idea and make sure it passes all the protocols. Cabrera said his only concern was that first responders be properly trained, certified and willing to participate in water rescues.
“There are a lot of people who don’t like to swim or can’t swim,” Cabrera said.
Lloyd said the Open Water Rescue Program will start next month and continue into the spring and will involve law enforcement, firefighters, EMS providers and lifeguard lieutenants.
All this comes up as the beach patrol ends its season.
In his report to the Board of Commissioners, Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol Chief Bud Johnson announced the guarding season is over and there are no guarded beaches in Wildwood Crest. As a result, he recommends people not enter the ocean.
“We always advise – no guards, no swim,” he said.
The last weekend for having some lifeguard coverage was the weekend of Sept. 10-11, and Sept. 24-25 will be the last weekend when an emergency response team is scheduled to respond in the event of a water emergency.
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