Two lifeguards bring in a rescued “victim,” in the form of a weighted mannequin, during a certification drill conducted by Sea Bright lifeguard Captain Mike Hudson, seen at left. Below, Hudson offering final instructions to the class at Surfrider Beach Club. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Guards from all seven of the town’s waterfront clubs spent three nights a week for the past three weeks in a first-ever advanced certification program that concluded with simulated emergencies on the beach at Surfrider Beach Club.
Taking on pairs of of guards who did not know what to expect, Mike Hudson, a paramedic who heads up the borough’s lifeguard squad, pretended to be in distress in the ocean while another swimmer was nearby to add an element of confusion.
When the guard reached Hudson, playing a victim, he would yell that a friend was underwater. “Then I throw the panicked swimmer into the mix” by faking a panic attack and pulling the rescuer under, Hudson told redbankgreen.
“The idea is to stress-test them by putting them under more pressure,” he said.
The aim was teach the guards too both manage the crisis and effectively communicate with other lifeguards, said Surfrider owner and former council member James LoBiondo.
At present, guards need pool certification, but haven’t gotten much training in the unpredictable environment of the surf, he said.
The “lifeguard academy” added a level of skills for a cadre of guards aged 16 to 22 who could now coordinate better in an ocean emergency, whether it be a “mass victim event” such as an overturned boat or single missing swimmer requiring a “grid search.”
“Now, all the private guards can help in those events,” LoBiondo said. “The whole idea is to get all these clubs on the same page.”
Last August, an 18-year-old Rockaway Township man died hours after being pulled ashore from the ocean at just south of the Driftwood Beach Club while the area was unprotected by lifeguards. And in 2010, a Red Bank man and his cousin from Sea Bright drowned at nearby Sandy Hook’s Gateway National Park.