How SI’s Beach Patrol Helps Keep Beachgoers Safe

Last year the Town Council made an important decision about safety on Seabrook’s beach. They decided to hire a trained professional company to keep beachgoers safe and also to enforce the town ordinances and as a deterrence to bad behavior. If you have been on the beach this summer or last, you saw a fully-equipped truck with two uniformed lifeguards inside patrolling our beach. It was so successful the first year that Town Council expanded the coverage to two trucks with four lifeguards during the peak season. The beach patrol season began April 1st and will continue through September 4th. The Accommodations Tax, which comes from tourist stays on the island, helps fund this service. Rob Edgerton, who along with Michael Sosnowski own Island Beach Services, LLC, reports to Town Administrator Joe Cronin at Town Hall with weekly status reports.

Left to Right – Matthiew Leo; Noah Butler, Senior Supervisor; Rob Edgerton, co-owner

If you wonder if the lifeguard’s job mostly consists of driving down the beach, it is much more than that. These individuals are highly trained and must all be certified yearly by the US Lifesaving Association, which involves a 40-hour class. They also have to be certified as an Emergency Medical Responder. They have extensive training on all the equipment that they have at their disposal. The truck carries a rescue paddle board, lifesaving buoys, oxygen, and an Automatic External Defibrillator. Stationed on the beach is a Rescue Water Craft (Jet Ski) equipped with a rescue sled that is towed behind it. If you see them in the water with all of this equipment, they might be having their weekly water practice which is a requirement for the position.

Their tasks are varied but primarily the crew is there to ensure safety for all those on the beach. Occasionally they see sharks in the water and they warn any swimmers nearby. Once in a while, they will order swimmers out of the water if there is more than one shark nearby and suggest that the swimmers go to another part of the beach to swim. They remind fishermen that it is not safe for them to fish if there are swimmers close by and ask the fishermen to move. They make sure that dogs and children do not disturb bird nesting environments. Everyone they have approached so far has cooperated with them. One of the skills they learn is how to approach beachgoers in a friendly, helpful way. They see themselves as people who are there to help and make beachgoing a safe and enjoyable experience.

Left to Right – Rob Edgerton, Matthiew Leo, Noah Butler

The town has appointed nine lifeguards as code enforcement officers, and at least one of these nine will be on the beach during all shifts. Code enforcement officers can write tickets for things that are prohibited on the beach, such as off-leash dogs, glass bottles, beached watercraft, or having a vehicle on the beach. They almost always give warnings first, because most people are unaware of the offenses. If a second ticket is written for the same violation, that may result in a fine, which can be very substantial. So far, they have only had to issue one ticket.

Seabrook Beach Patrol works closely with the Coast Guard, St Johns Fire Department, Seabrook’s Turtle Patrol and also Kiawah Beach Services, which they also own. If a call goes to 911 for water assistance, our patrol gets it also. Senior Supervisor Noah Butler, or the supervisor on duty at the time, goes into action. If warranted, the Rescue Water Craft is launched and Kiawah is notified to launch theirs also in case a backup is needed. If they see someone who needs help, they can use the Rescue Water Board and paddle to the distressed swimmer.

This organization wants to be seen as helpful to all beachgoers and ready to assist when needed to keep everyone safe. They stress calling 911 if they feel that they may be witnessing an emergency. All in all, Seabrook is lucky that such well-trained lifeguards are there on our beaches in case of trouble.

– Submitted by Sue Holloman, Tidelines Staff Writer