Properly Fund Lifeguards to Help Cut Drownings

Article excerpt

The 11 recent drownings on Kauai and two on Maui have caused a predictable response from the media, visitor industry officials, legislators and the public to reduce the number of deaths.

Everyone agrees we need more education and prevention efforts to inform visitors about the dangers of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, including videos on incoming flights and in hotel rooms, more informational websites and electronic alerts and accurate information from tour guides, concierges and others who are in direct contact with visitors.

As the Hawaii Tourism Authority reports every month, visitor arrivals are at record levels, hotel rooms are full and visitor spending is up. Visitors to the islands are seeking out new experiences. No longer content with laying on the beach at Waikiki, they are driving to the North Shore, Kailua Beach, Kaena Point and other places not usually frequented by the average visitor, to seek out the "hidden Hawaii." Guidebooks and other publications contain information and directions to places like Queen's Bath on Kauai, the Spitting Caves on Oahu and other remote areas offering more exciting experiences.

Unfortunately, not all visitors are prepared for these experiences. Tour operators don't tell them that they could suffer serious spinal cord injuries in the shore break at Sandy Beach, that they could be swept out to sea if they get too close to the "awesome surf" on the North Shore, or that they could drown at Hanauma Bay if they follow a fish into deep water.

Ten of the 11 recent Kauai drownings occurred in areas with no lifeguards. Professional lifeguards are trained to observe and evaluate ocean conditions and to prevent the unwary from getting into trouble. …