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Lifeguards train for possible solo rescues

Neptune Beach lifeguards increase training as more visitors flock to beach

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Lifeguards at Neptune Beach are undergoing additional training this year to keep up with the growing number of visitors and the possibility of severe rescues.

Less than two weeks ago, a teenager was bitten by a shark at Neptune Beach. The lifeguard captain said rescuers always prepare for those types of trauma cases and this year, lifeguards are learning more about how to respond to those situations alone.

With more people visiting the beaches, the captain said chances are higher for multiple rescues to be needed, possibly at the same time.

So his lifeguards are receiving extra training to better prepare them to respond to a case alone, if needed.

Beachgoer Brenda Harvey, who was visiting Friday from Michigan, said she marks a visit to Jacksonville's beaches on her calendar every year.

“Why go further down south when you can have everything right here in Jacksonville?” she said.

But recently, she’s noticing some changes.

“There’s more people here now than there was in July of two years ago,” she said.

Thousands flocked to the beaches on Memorial Day weekend, and the numbers haven’t decreased.

“More and more people are from out of state, first time being to the beach,” said Capt. Richmond Banks of Neptune Beach Ocean Rescue. “We are getting a lot of people from the Midwest area.”

Banks said that's another reason it’s important to get ahead of the game.

“We are just kind of revamping how we are allocating our resources and how we prioritize our resources when situations occur simultaneously,” Banks said.

This year, Banks says lifeguards have each dedicated an extra 25 hours of training to practice how to respond to an incident alone if there are multiple rescues going on at one time.

“Kind of putting the guard, isolating the guard in a situation and just observing them handling the situation without any kind of help whatsoever,” Banks said.

In addition to that, Banks said lifeguards are being exposed to how to respond to more trauma scenarios, like shark bites. He said collaborating with other agencies is a must.

“The captains will get together maybe once every two weeks, and we will discuss and talk about any new equipment we have that can be utilized by every agency in case we need it and try to set up mock situations where we would need any interagency help,” Banks said.

Banks said they are always monitoring numbers to see how many people are coming to the beach.

He said in the past five years there has been a 15 percent increase in visitors. More than 200,000 people came last year alone to Neptune Beach, which is less than two miles long.