Beach Safety Gets A Makeover

From pinpointing access to broadened dispatch
Dispatchers who receive a water or beach emergency call will immediately contact not only the police and emergency medical services but also the town’s volunteer ocean rescue squad.

    Even before the beach season got under way this year, a group dedicated to improving the safety of swimmers and assisting emergency workers to get to them when help is needed was making arrangements for the summer.
    Members of the Amagansett Beach Safety Advisory Committee, which was formed last year after a drowning at an unprotected beach in that hamlet, discussed their efforts at a recent East Hampton Town Board meeting. Councilman Dominick Stanzione has served as liaison to the group.
    The committee realized, said Vicki Littman, a founder and leader, that the safety strategies being discussed could be employed not only in Amagansett but also throughout the town.
    Soon to be seen flying from the flagpoles at the Montauk green and near the Amagansett fire station will be surf advisory flags: yellow or red, indicating rough or extremely hazardous surf conditions. In both cases, said John Ryan Jr., who leads the town’s lifeguard corps, “people should stay out of the water.”
    One goal is to standardize the names of various beach locations, assigning a number and location to each beach access in the town so that beachgoers will be able to identify where they are, and emergency responders can quickly pinpoint where to go.
    Mr. Ryan said he has compiled a list of 150 access points onto bay or ocean beaches in the town. A sign listing the numbered location will be posted at each of them, at both road end and walking path access points, and on the beach side.
    In addition, the chief marine patrol officer, Ed Michels, said, marine patrol trucks contain global positioning systems, allowing officers to communicate a location to the Coast Guard, should there be a need for a response by water.
    In downtown Montauk, where a half-mile stretch of narrow beaches remains unguarded, posts have been installed by the town’s Parks Department delineating an emergency vehicle access lane at the toe of the dunes, ensuring a clear path for those responding to calls for help. Each of those posts is numbered, so that anyone on the beach who calls for help will be able to provide their exact location.
    There has also been a change in the communications procedure followed when a 911 call comes in, East Hampton Town Police Chief Eddie Ecker said. Dispatchers who receive a water or beach emergency call will immediately contact not only the police and emergency medical services but also the town’s volunteer ocean rescue squad.
    Fund-raising by the committee, jump-started by a donation from Ms. Littman, enabled the town to buy an all-terrain vehicle that is kept at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett. The vehicle, Mr. Ryan said this week, will help lifeguards from that beach more quickly respond to emergencies on the unguarded stretches to the east, including the popular beach at Napeague Lane, as well as help them ferry E.M.S. personnel to and from an emergency scene and help lifeguards travel down the beach to alert swimmers to dangerous conditions.
    To increase public awareness, town lifeguards will be presenting water safety lectures at various locations throughout the summer, Mr. Ryan said, highlighting things such as how to recognize rip currents and what to do if caught in one.
    In addition to the junior lifeguard program, through which numerous youngsters learn swimming and ocean safety, Mr. Ryan said an adult, or “masters,” ocean training program may be offered, allowing adults to brush up on or learn those skills as well.