Pine Passes Bill to Extend Lifeguard hours

HONOLULU Drowning is a leading cause of death in the State of Hawaii and the Honolulu City Council together with the Mayor have acted to reduce the number of lives lost in Oahu waters.

City and County lifeguards have wanted to extend their hours of service at Oahu beach parks for decades, because as first-responders helping people and saving lives is not just what they do, it is who they are, said Councilmember Kym Pine. The Hanauma Bay pilot project proved that the shorter work-weeks provided by extended, dawn-to-dusk hours, will save the City money in workers compensation claims and sick leave and boost lifeguard morale.

Nearly 20 percent of ocean emergencies happen outside the lifeguards standard, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. workday.

“The more lifeguards we have on duty from dawn until dusk at our beaches, ready to make a rescue or prevent a rescue from being needed, thats going to increase the odds of survival for our visitors and locals”, said Bryan Phillips, a lifeguard for 15 years. “Its just a no-brainer when it comes to public safety, beachgoer safety and also the ability to have an extra day of rest for our lifeguards.”

“To see this finally come true is a treasure, a dream. Whats more valuable than money or anything, is life”, said Brian Keaulana, renowned waterman and former City and County lifeguard. Keaulana continues to help in training new lifeguard recruits in ocean risk management and other ocean rescue techniques. “On a purely voluntary basis, I show up early in the morning at the beach when the waves are giant to safeguard everyone who comes into our ocean.”

Councilmember Pines first attempt to extend lifeguard hours, based on ocean safety officers long-sought push, dates back to 2016.

“I am so happy that everyone worked together on this new bill. The measure will save lives and improve our lifeguards quality of life, Pine said. It will also save the City money in lost work-time through sick leave and workers compensation claims.”

In November 2019, the Mayor signed the bill extending lifeguard service hours from dawn to sundown.

New hours expected to begin July 1, 2021. Lifeguards began implementing the extended hours on a voluntary basis immediately, and saved 4 lives the first week of 2020.

Honolulu Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services oversees 200 miles (322 kilometers) of coastline extending up to 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) offshore at more than 70 beach parks.

The city recorded more than 22.5 million visits to beach parks, more than 1 million preventative actions, nearly 105,000 first-aid actions, and more than 2,100 rescues in 2018.