SANDBRIDGE — Just before Memorial Day Weekend, the kickoff of the true tourist season in Sandbridge, city lifeguards gathered to train together at their Little Island headquarters.
They were young and old, many of them returning year after year because they love the beach and say the team is like a family. City Emergency Medical Services Capt. Cat Watson, who oversees the lifeguards, noted that young lifeguards often stick around through their college years and beyond.
Young indeed means young. Some of the people who help save lives in Virginia Beach are in high school.
“I love the beach,” said Katy Taylor, a 17-year-old Kellam High School student in her second summer here. “I love helping people. It’s just a fun summer job.”
And there is a junior lifeguard program, too, with summer camps that minor first aid and water safety to young people before they turn 16, or old enough to lifeguard. “I’ve had several lifeguards through the camps,” Watson said.
The lifeguards worked at checking a patient, stabilizing them on a backboard, working on CPR for adults and even infants.
“You all better pay attention because we had a baby choking on sand,” said Bernard Cory, 26, a lifeguard captain who also works as a Chesapeake firefighter and paramedic.
Two weeks after that rescue, a grateful family brough the lifeguards a rosary, he noted.
“The reason we’re doing this is it did happen,” said Liz Lott, 21, a lifeguard with five summers of experience. “It could happen again.”
Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day, from the whistled “blow up,” the start of duty, at 9:30 a.m. through “blow down” at 6 p.m. A smaller crew is on hand at the beach until dusk to keep evening swimmers safe.
Watson started her own service to the city as a volunteer rescue squad member at the Oceanfront in 1998, and she noted some lifeguards serving here also help their communities by riding rescue with volunteer squads.
She was one of the first paramedics hired by the city and now supervises 70 part-time employees who protect beachgoers here.
“Lifeguarding is the one public safety entity where you have a chance to prevent the 911 call from happening,” Watson said. “We train our guards to blow that whistle, go get somebody the moment you see someone having trouble.”
© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC