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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Rell Says Progress Being Made in Sherwood Island Lifeguard Shortage

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Gov. M. Jodi Rell:“resources must and will be provided.” File photo
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said today that progress is being made in addressing the lifeguard shortage at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park.

In a statement, Rell expressed optimism that lifeguards will be on duty at the park by this 4th of July weekend.

“I am pleased to announce not only that DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) is interviewing seven interested lifeguard candidates for Sherwood Island, but also that we plan to pay the lifeguards who are hired between $9 and $9.50 an hour,” Rell said.

A number of the lifeguards who quit last weekend cited lower pay compared to other area beaches and not receiving promised pay raises.

“In addition, a lifeguard training class is being conducted in Trumbull this week and the state is recruiting candidates from that class,” Rell said.

“My goal is to have lifeguards in the chairs at Sherwood Island this weekend, and I think we can do it.”

When Rell learned of the shortage, she posted a notice on the state’s Web site and urged the public to call the State Parks Division to get more information about working at the park.

The governor received a status report from the DEP on complaints about problems with equipment and wages for the lifeguards at the park, the statement said.

“Despite complaints about equipment, the DEP informs me that all necessary safety equipment utilized by the lifeguards is fully functional,” Rell said. 

Soon after Rell’s statement, one of the lifeguards who quit, Zack Klomberg, 19, of Westport, said her comments were not accurate.

“This is simply not true,” Klomberg said in a posting on WestportNow. He added, “The lifeguards at this state park do not have the quality of equipment to safely or effectively do their job.”

“I am sure if the governor went to the island and saw what there is to work with, she would be embarrassed to have Connecticut represented in such a way.”

In her statement, Rell addressed pay issues at the park.

“I also asked DEP to provide me with a report on salary issues at the park,” she said.  “The lifeguards who quit had been hired at $9.50 per hour.

“Due to a clerical error, their first checks were not accurate � they were compensated $1-per-hour less than what they should have been paid. This error was explained to the lifeguards, who were told the error would be corrected � but they still quit.”

Rell added, “While this short-term status report is encouraging, it is clear to me that our low pay for lifeguards is making it increasingly difficult to hire lifeguards.

“The long-term solution to this perennial problem must involve reallocating our summer budget to allow for salary increases.”

She said, “Sherwood Island is one of Fairfield County’s busiest beaches, and a premium must be put on safety. The lifeguards and all who staff the park must have all the tools they need.

“It is simply unacceptable to hear reports of radios and other equipment that do not work. I will not tolerate people’s safety being put at risk due to a lack of resources. The resources must, and will, be provided.”

Rell thanked DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy for the report.

“I want to thank Gov. Rell for all of her assistance with this matter,” McCarthy said. “Thanks to her leadership, we are close to resolving the lifeguard situation at Sherwood Island just in time for the holiday weekend.”

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Posted 06/29/05 at 10:01 PM  Permalink



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“Despite complaints about equipment, the DEP informs me that all necessary safety equipment utilized by the lifeguards is fully functional,” Rell said

This is simply not true. It took two weeks for the State to issues personal protective equipment to the guards such as face shields for performing CPR. All the backboards are warped and would no longer provide spinal alignment and immobilization to injured patients. The straps on the back boards are actually only beach wheel chair seat belts that cannot hold a patients weight, open snapping apart. The cervical collars are out of date and falling apart with not all sizes available, so it is possible that some would not properly fit patients. There are no working radios, isolating the guards on the beach from help if needed. All the megaphones are broken so patrons far out in the water cannot hear lifeguard commands. An order of first aid supplies had not been made for three years! The only first aid supplies available are band-aids and some gauze. There are only 2 beach umbrellas available for lifeguard use. Only one rescue surf board out of four is in proper working condition. The State has also failed to invest in other advanced life saving supplies such as oxygen and AED’s. AED’s use electricity to shock a patient’s heart back into a normal rhythm in cardiac arrest and are found everywhere these days, from airports to shopping malls…but not on state beaches. Lifeguards are trained to use such equipment. The lifeguards at this state park do not have the quality of equipment to safely or effectively do their job. I am sure if the Governor went to the Island and saw what there is to work with she would be embarrassed to have Connecticut represented in such a way. The standard of care that lifeguards are expected to give cannot be achieved with the current supplies at the park. Also, seven guards while an improvement are not enough to control both beaches and keep patrons safe. The question still remains, will the new guards want to continue working at a park with sub-standard and broken equipment? Compo beach in Westport not only has a full staff with a large sub list for back up but they also possess cutting edge rescue surf boards, working Motorola radios, AED’s, oxygen, umbrellas on every lifeguard chair, and an extensive amount of first aid supplies. Why is the State refusing to give supplies like Compo has to Sherwood?

The lifeguards left because they were not given equipment to safely help others. Morally the guards would not just “settle” and compromise their high ideals of helping others by struggling with equipment that was literally falling apart. Even with a full staff at the beach, if that is ever attained, patrons should still be worried about their safety because live saving equipment and supplies are NOT being given to the lifeguard staff to use. Just putting people in chairs to give the appearance of a safer environment will not improve the safety of people at the park. In fact it will just provide a fa�ade, a false sense of security. The park needs an equal balance of staff, and EQUIPMENT for the staff to use. The Governor says that the problem is close to being solved, however if one takes a closer look at the issues, it is far from being resolved. This is why a staff of 13 chose not to return, because they refused to be apart of a beach that was willing to sacrifice the safety of the people who in fact pay their salary with tax dollars.

The State needs to put all the pieces together. Higher salary to attract more staff, and once an adequate staff has been hired, quality equipment for them to use.

Posted by ZK on June 30, 2005 at 12:03 AM | #
 

Zack,

I think your comments are dead on accurate.  It’s too bad the State had too lose guards like you and Christi in order to realize what is going on at the park.

Posted by Jack Harder on June 30, 2005 at 12:11 AM | #
 

Evidence of equipment failure:

If a patron suffers a neck or back injury the proper treatment used to stabilize that patient is to secure and immobilize them on a long back board and cervical collar. At Sherwood the back boards are warped which would only exacerbate the patients injury and the cervical collars are old and not all the proper sizes are available for use. This means that a person with a neck injury would not be properly immobilized. The consequences of aggravating such injuries are paralysis or death.

In the past many medical emergencies have occurred on the park. There are many ambulance calls annually at the park. I personally have called for an ambulance to transport a pediatric burn patient who needed up spending six weeks in intensive care in Bridgeport’s burn unit. Deep lacerations are sustained at the park as well along with heat stroke and other medical emergencies such as people experiencing chest pain. Fortunately there have not been any cardiac arrests on park while I have worked there. The staff has met these needs by using their own personal medical kits. In its current state the park does not have the supplies to treat such critically ill or injured people. There are no bandages for cold packs for burns or lacerations and no oxygen or AED’s for cardiac patients,

At busy times the park the patrons can get very rowdy and there are documented incidents in the past of lifeguards being harassed and even assaulted in the water, including a fourth of July where a guard was flipped over while patrolling in a kayak, picked up, and thrown in the air. Lifeguards need to have reliable communication systems in place so that they can get into contact with law enforcement. Currently there are no working radios in place, making the beach a dead zone for communication. While employed I was using my own personal cell phone to communicate with park staff�if I had service available. Such events can be avoided in the future by the State purchasing new working megaphones so that lifeguards can communicate with patrons at a safe distance. As of now Sherwood has no working megaphones. This means that guards must leave their stations to venture in the water to inform patrons of rule violations ect�taking guards out of service on the beach and leaving water unwatched and safety ignored. It also prevents guards from communication with patrons at a safe distance. Compo beach has not only a supply of megaphones but also an advanced PA system. Compo also has a set of Motorola radios that work very well.

For water rescues that are far out in water, surf boards are used because it is a faster means of reaching the patient than swimming. Only two of the park’s surf boards are in working condition, the others taken out of service because they are broken and cannot be safely used in a rescue. This leaves patrons who are in deep water at risk because if they should need help the guard responding will take longer to get to them by swimming. Compo beach uses newer, more streamlined version of these boards, and the State has refused to upgrade.

Another means of lifeguards protecting themselves are umbrellas, used to shelter them from the sun. Compo beach has a working umbrella on every chair while Sherwood has only two working umbrellas.

These are just a few examples, there are many more�

Would any Connecticut State or DEP official feel safe as a patient at this park being treated with such equipment? Certainly I am sure they would want only the best for a family member or loved one who needed help at a State park.

Posted by Zack on June 30, 2005 at 02:42 AM | #
 

I work at a State Park unit in central Connecticut. I am a park aid there with the same equipment and pay issues you have. I am given a sub standard unsafe car to patrol in. Most of the equipment and uniforms I use I have to buy out of my own pocket. If I am out in the woods and away from my vehicle for a long time I am away from radio contact because I have a portable radio that doesn’t work most of the time. My first aid kit in my car is almost out of supplies and I was told there is no money to restock. I get paid the same as a life guard and haven’t been given a rise in a year. Personally I think that if we don’t get better equipment the state will get a lawsuit because of an incident. We need better pay and equipment.

Posted by Al on June 30, 2005 at 07:42 PM | #
 

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Posted by Terry on July 16, 2005 at 08:06 AM | #