CARLSBAD — After two successful seasons of manning the city’s North Beach, the City Council unanimously approved Carlsbad Fire Department continuing to service the beach going forward.
During a presentation to the council, fire Chief Mike Calderwood and Battalion Chief Nate Pearson gave an overview of the department’s request for proposal to continue providing lifeguard services on North Beach.
The total cost will be $603,300 per year, according to Calderwood.
The fire department received two other proposals from California State Parks and Orange County Lifeguards. Those bids came in at $434,370 and $605,000, respectively.
“Beachgoers are happy to see lifeguards on the beach,” Pearson said. “They have been overwhelmingly positive to have service.”
As for staffing, Pearson said two full-time employees will be staffed with 25 part-time employees. Full coverage, meaning daily tower and truck staffing, of the area will range from about Memorial Day until Labor Day. Service will be scaled down during the off season to truck patrols during the week and staffed towers on the weekend.
Through the fire department, lifeguards will receive U.S. Lifeguard Association advanced training, which provides advanced paramedic life support, water response and swift-water and winter storm response.
Councilman Michael Schumacher said he was concerned with the risk and liability of the city’s workers compensation risk exposure, which is up to $1.25 million before the insurance provides coverage.
One reason was the August 2017 injury to Alex Shaner, a Carlsbad lifeguard who shattered three vertebrae in his neck during a body surfing accident. He was paralyzed, but has since regained his ability to walk, Pearson said.
Still, the council felt comfortable with the lack of major injuries to lifeguards over the years and with the two city programs.
“I’m not a fan of contracting out,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. “I think we’ll get the best service by going with the fire department.”
The pilot program was approved by the City Council on March 17, 2017. On Feb. 13, the council approved to continue the program while city staff developed options for a long-term solution.
This year’s interim program started March 1 and runs through Oct. 31.
This summer, according to Pearson’s report, 13,811 outreach contacts were made, 372 rescues were conducted — 99 requiring medical aid — and no fatalities were reported.
Pearson said beach traffic increased this year due to sand erosion in Oceanside, improved beach access points and other factors. In fact, the total number of beachgoers rose 38 percent in 2018 over 2017, with increases in preventative actions (22 percent), public education contacts and rescues (both at 12 percent).
In addition, with the lifeguards on duty to prevent and triage injuries on site, it reduced emergency calls to the area by 3.5 percent. Citywide calls for those emergency services increased 13 percent over the same time period, Pearson added.
Those statistics were compared year-over-year to 2017 over the timeframe from Memorial Day through Labor Day, he said.