LONG BEACH — CSEA City of Long Beach Unit part-time lifeguards are the city’s unofficial first responders.

Unit lifeguards’ recent rescue of five girls drowning in a rip current was covered by area news outlets, but not enough has been said about the workers who saved the beachgoers from the life-threatening event.

CSEA City of Long Beach Lifeguard Connor Corbett looks over the section of the beach where he is assigned to monitor.

Lifeguards Jack Ryan and Connor Corbett were surveying the beach from the lifeguard tower when Ryan, who is also a volunteer firefighter, received an alert on his phone about the need for a water rescue. As a firefighter, Ryan has access to mobile applications that show real-time events that need emergency responses.

The swimmers in need of rescue were in the water after 6 p.m. on a weekday, when the beach is closed and lifeguards are typically off duty. Only a small crew of four lifeguards work the last few hours of daylight.

Ryan and Corbett rushed into the water and rescued the girls.

“The swimmers were in the worst part of the water,” said Corbett. “The water in that area is a riptide that pushes swimmers back into the water. What swimmers wind up doing is trying to fight against the current and they end up tiring themselves out.”

Police medics arrived on the scene not long after the lifeguards successfully pulled the swimmers out of the water. The girls were taken to a local hospital where they were examined.

While the lifeguards are prepared for emergency situations, they also work to prevent potentially life-threatening situations by practicing “preventative lifeguarding.”

“Part of our job is to educate the public,” said CSEA City of Long Beach Lifeguards Unit President Chas Thompson. “We speak to civic groups about beach safety.”

Lifeguards also correct the public “every day, multiple times an hour” when the beachgoers are participating in dangerous behavior.

Long Beach is a popular summertime destination that attracts visitors from out of the city. As such, many of these visitors may be unaware of the dangerous areas, while city residents know exactly what spots to avoid. Earlier this year, the lifeguards rescued another visitor who was drowning in the same area that the five teenage girls were retrieved.

CSEA City of Long Beach Lifeguard Jack Ryan checks to ensure that beach visitors are practicing proper safety precautions.

To minimize potential hazards while visiting the beach, lifeguards advise beach patrons to look for signs highlighting water conditions.

“We advise people to swim between the flags that we place around the beach,” said Ryan. “We position those flags away from the rip currents so people don’t swim into that area.”

The lifeguards usually reposition the flags twice a day to accommodate the change in tide.

Beach workers also urge visitors to check in with lifeguards for the best places to swim.

“When I was a younger lifeguard, people would ask when high tide was and where’s the best place to swim,” said CSEA City of Long Beach Lifeguard Supervisor Philip Cabasino. “Not a lot of people ask those types of questions anymore. People should always check in with a lifeguard.”

— Wendi Bowie

Unions work to address lifeguard shortage

CSEA City of Long Beach representatives recently joined their counterparts from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) for a lifeguard summit, at which they discussed ways to rectify New York State’s lifeguard shortage.

Many NYSUT members work as lifeguards during the summer, so the union also has a large stake in stabilizing the lifeguard position.

At the meeting, the group discussed the possibility of pay increases, as well as additional ways to advocate for lifeguards to make the position more appealing.


About Author

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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