Ocean City, MD  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Ocean City Area Features

The Vigilant Lifeguard

Every morning in the summer, a crowd of stunningly fit and tanned people in red swimsuits meet before their day gets underway. They’ve come together to get beach assignments and go over reports of ocean hazards, events of the previous day, and communicate vital information among each other. But these are not ordinary beachgoers—these are the Ocean City, MD Beach Patrol’s Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT), more commonly called—lifeguards.

From 10am-5:30 pm, these skilled sentinels steadily scan the surf and the beach for people in distress. They are highly trained individuals who understand how to properly administer first aid, can expertly respond to emergencies, enforce local laws and code, and help and educate the public. To become an SRT, strict physical demands involving endurance on land and in the sea must be met and are tested through timed runs and swims. Every day they are required to work out. They need to be strong in order to rescue victims from the surf and they need to think quickly. The lifeguards receive extensive training, and they must be able to cite city ordinances, recognize dangerous currents or weather patterns, and memorize semaphore code (spelling out words with arm and flag positions) to communicate. Once these pros are accepted to the Ocean City Beach Patrol, they must re-certify every year to make sure they are still in top shape to support the emergency needs of the city’s visitors.

In addition to aiding people in the water, the SRTs serve and protect those who are on the beach as well. One of the deadliest hazards occurs when people “bury” each other in the sand. When the buried person exhales, the sand can collapse onto their chest and prevent expansion of the lungs so that they are unable to inhale. Lifeguards are also very good at helping lost children. As the current moves swimmers down the coast, it can be easy for children to get disoriented. If that happens, children are always encouraged to approach a lifeguard for safety and assistance. In addition, the Ocean City Beach Patrol manages access to the beach wheelchairs that are located at some beach access paths. (For locations or to reserve one, call 410-520-5231 between 10am and 4pm.)

At other times—particularly in the “off” season—many of these lifeguards have other jobs or go to school, but when they’re on duty in the summer, they’re pure SRT professionals who follow rank. Wearing royal blue bathing suits differentiates the Sergeant, First Lieutenant and Captain. The team is equipped with the latest technology for communication, boats and ATVs for rescues, and they even have a dive team for underwater searches.

To stay safe at the beach, here are some things to remember:

  • Never go in the water without a lifeguard on duty.
  • Know how to escape a rip current by swimming parallel to the shore. Do not panic or swim against the current.
  • Use sunscreen and drink water.
  • Obey signs and flags.
  • Do not dig deep holes and do not bury people in the sand.
  • Swim with a friend.
  • Check with a lifeguard for ocean conditions.
  • Do not swim near fishing piers, rock jetties, or wooden pilings.
  • Fires, alcoholic beverages, glass containers and smoking in public areas are not permitted on the beach.
  • No one is allowed on the beach or in the ocean from 12am to 5am.
  • Surfing is permitted only in a designated surfing area. Two surfing areas are assigned each day.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the beach or boardwalk May 1-Sept. 30.

The lifeguards are there for your protection and Ocean City has one of the largest and best beach patrols in the nation. So for your safety and the safety of others, abide by the rules and guidelines of the Ocean City Beach Patrol and the individual lifeguard stationed near you. They have certainly passed the tests required to have earned your respect.

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