Lifeguards: Be aware of dangerous water conditions as Jacksonville beaches reopen

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – On Monday, time restrictions at all Duval County beaches will be lifted meaning the beaches will be open all day like normal with social distance guidelines in place.

The change is expected to result in more people getting into the water as the weather this time of year begins to get hotter.

Lifeguards are asking that beachgoers to pay close attention to the condition of the flags to determine if the water is too dangerous to swim in because of rip-currents.

They’re also asking parents to keep a close eye on their small children to make sure they don’t go venturing into the water unattended.

These are just some of the ways to prevent putting lifeguards in a position of having to perform resuscitation.

But if they still have to perform the procedure, there are protocols in place.

Even during a COVID-19 pandemic, lifeguards at Jacksonville Beach know there will be times when they must respond to a water emergency that may require resuscitation.

“We’re going to do our best to keep them safe, but we do take a certain risk when we know at any time we may be exposed to someone’s bodily fluids and we do everything we can to avoid that,” said Captain Rob Emahiser.

One way of avoiding fluids such as saliva from a drowning victim is by using this mask to blow air into the victim’s mouth once they have pulled the victim onto the shore.

“They’re going to place this over their face like that. There’s a one-way valve and small filter that’s designed to keep vomit and other fluids from getting into the rescuer’s mouth," Emahiser said.

Then once a rescue truck arrives, the next level of resuscitation begins.

“We’re going to have a bag valve mask. Bag. Valve. Mask. You may have seen this in hospitals. It’s used when someone is not breathing. A second rescuer is going to hold this on the victim’s face and they’re going to squeeze pure oxygen that comes form an oxygen tank on the truck,” Emahiser said.

But there are times when lifeguard here in Jacksonville Beach may have to perform actual mouth-to-mouth resuscitation without any barriers for protection.

“If a person is out in the water and the lifeguard gets out there and they’re not breathing, on the water, a lifeguard has a personal choice to make to give them rescue breadths in the water,” Emahiser said.

In that scenario, immediate mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may buy the victim enough time to survive the trip back to shore. But it at the same time, it may potentially expose the lifeguard to COVID-19. A situation they try to avoid by asking beachgoers not to venture into the water when tidal conditions are dangerous.

Ocean Rescue also wants the public to know that until Monday, there will only be lifeguards on duty during the morning hours.

For lifeguards in Nassau and St. Johns County the protocol is no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

They say they try to get victims out of the water as quickly as possible then use the Bag Valve Mask to administer pure oxygen into the victim’s lungs.

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