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lifeguard 560Hub Staff

The Waterfront Committee has been tasked by Saugeen Shores Council to look into the possibility of having lifeguard patrolled beaches in Saugeen Shores.

Port Elgin and Saugeen Township Beachers’ Association President, David Shemist presented the idea during a delegation to council, September 26. His plan included having three to five person beach patrols, a life jacket share program for children under 10 as well as adult non swimmers, rip current signage, and implementation of a beach flag system specifically on Port Elgin beaches.

Shemist could attest that the Southampton Residents’ Association have also put in a motion and agreed that beaches in Southampton should be patrolled as well.

“We have kids on staff that are already trained, past lifeguards that are already trained for waterfront rescue. It would require very minimal changes to get their staff ready,” said Shemilt.

“I did some quick work and made some inquires. We came up with a plan that if we did a three person team during the week, five person on the weekend, it would probably be about a 14 thousand dollar investment in manpower to do that and implement,” Shemist said.

He informed council of many Ontario communities currently using lifeguards to monitor waterfronts, with many beaches located on Lake Huron, such as Port Stanley, Sarnia, Grand Bend, and Goderich.

Shemilt also presented facts and figures about drowning in Canada and offered recommendations from a report by the Officer of the Chief Coroner for Ontario pertaining to accidental drowning deaths in Ontario.

The recommendations were:

• Lifeguards be present at high volume public beaches with clear demarcation defining the swimming area under the surveillance of the lifeguard

• Clear signage identifies the risk of challenging water conditions such as rough water and waves, strong currents, undertows and off-shore winds

• There is a lifejacket loaner program for children under 10 years of age, adult non swimmers, and boaters

• Clear signage is posted depicting safety measures

• How to swim out of rip currents

• Bow to utilize safety equipment to effect a rescue

• How to communicate to emergency medical services in the event of a drowning or near-drowning

• Implement the international beach flag system

Before Mayor Mike Smith requested members of the Waterfront Committee begin a report, Councillor and Waterfront Committee member Neal Menage hoped that all Saugeen Shores beaches could be monitored.

“I think that if we’re going to instigate or pose or construct this life-guarding, life-patrolling system we should be looking at the major beach areas where there are hundreds and possibly thousands of people attending and implement it at all locations at once, not bring it in gradually over time and escalate slowly; figure out how much it costs and make the decision, all in or not at all,” said Menage.

Town of Saugeen Shores Aquatic Supervisor Shanna Reid was in attendance at the September 26 Committee of the Whole meeting and said in a statement that once they have direction from council and senior management they will take their focus and move forward. “There is still lots of work to be done, so let's not put the ring buoy before the lifeguard,” quipped Reid.

“It is important to remember that fundamentally this concept is all about having a water safe community. We currently are providing this for our residents,” said Reid, who said that the acquatic centre provides free programming such as Swim to Survive for Grades 3 and 4 and Swim to Survive Plus for Grades 6, 7 and 8.

“We also have a free Learn to Leadership for our high school grades. Water safety education is key in our community and we will continue to focus on this concept. The community has always been very supportive of these programs and we are always looking for sponsorship to ensure we are able to offer them,” said Reid.

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