Barbadians and tourists using the beach this summer will do so under safer conditions.
According to General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Keith Neblett, the Commission is currently undertaking a training programme that should see an increase in the current lifeguard complement by month-end.
"We are short of lifeguards. We have over 80 lifeguards stretched around the island, and the minimum amount you need to be effective at most of the lifeguard huts is three. We are currently on a programme where at the end of May, we should have at least 10 new lifeguards that would add to the numbers and increase the level of safety on our beaches," he assured.
Noting that the lifeguard service was critical to all Barbadians, the General Manager maintained: "There is no value that you can put on someone’s life. What we do in the lifeguard service is to try to create a very safe environment for all beach users.??What we have seen over the last year or two is that either during the summer or the Easter period, or when there is a Bank Holiday, unfortunately some young person drowns."
Indicating that drowning could be as a result of myriad factors, Mr. Neblett contended: "We find many Barbadians go to a lot of beaches that don’t have lifeguard stations because of tradition and because they know the area. However, we caution beach users that if they do not know the location, because they see persons going there they should not follow them. Those persons know these areas and they know the pros and cons of them.
"It is a very sensitive matter – we are very mindful of the fact that when someone loses his or her life due to drowning it is very heartbreaking. But we try to do our part, and hope that people just follow the advice of lifeguards and watch when the red flags are erected on beaches," the NCC?? official?? stressed.
In terms of other preventative measures, the General Manager said they were also hoping to replicate the use of solar-powered Public Address (PA) systems on beaches to alert sea bathers to the potential dangers.
"One initiative we started this year is the installation of a fully solar-powered PA system at Rockley Beach, and we are hoping to replicate it at two or three other lifeguard towers. It has a beacon and a siren and it is easier, because people tend not to want to listen to verbal warnings, but, if you put on a siren and use a PA system, they tend to listen.
"So we have one at Accra and we are hoping to have another one at Browne’s Beach, the other one is at Dover. So, this follows the whole trend we are promoting in terms of energy conservation," he explained.
Mr. Neblett cited the NCC’s summer swimming programme as another initiative, which is aimed at increasing safety on the island’s beaches, through getting more Barbadians involved in swimming.
"Last summer we embarked on a programme, where we taught over 200 persons to swim and we are hoping to restart this in July or August this year. The idea is to have 200 or more persons go through that same process, in the hope that down the road they would have less fear of the water, and might be able to offer assistance to persons in difficulty," he declared.