Lifeguards are to return to the seafront in Brighton and Hove but only to a limited number of beaches after the covid-19 coronavirus restrictions affected the usual recruitment process.
Brighton and Hove City Council said: “A limited seasonal beach lifeguard service, adapted to take into account the covid-19 restrictions, will begin tomorrow, (Saturday) 13 June and run until (Sunday) 6 September.
“Lifeguards normally patrol the city’s beaches from the end of May until the end of the school holidays in September.
“However, the covid-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions interrupted our usual recruitment drive for lifeguards and has meant we have had to adapt the service to ensure all seafront staff and public are kept safe from the virus.
“On a practical basis this has limited the number of beaches that we can lifeguard safely and reduced the number of available lifeguards.
“We have taken into account social distancing and introduced increased hygiene procedures and cleaning of equipment.
“We have recruited 29 seasonal beach lifeguards and a further 15 will undertake an induction process in the near future.
“There will be a lifeguarded bathing area on Brighton central beach and another in Hove near the King Alfred Leisure Centre.
“The lifeguard patrol boat will provide an emergency response, enforce byelaws for motorised vessels and monitor outlying areas.
“The bathing areas have been selected where there is the highest footfall and access to facilities for both staff and public.
“The bathing zones will be larger than usual to accommodate physical distancing while in the water and each location will have two lifeguard posts.
“Each beach will have two seafront officers on quad bike to support the lifeguards in emergency response.
“Initially the service will operate from 11am to 6pm.
“Extra signage has been put in place to indicate where the lifeguarded zones are with further safety information within these areas.”
Councillor Carmen Appich, who chairs the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, said: “The covid-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for the seafront team and they have been using their expertise to develop a seasonal lifeguard service aimed at keeping staff and the public safe from the virus.
“The team have developed new procedures for water rescues, first aid and life support techniques.
“This is a huge challenge given the need to maintain social distancing and increase cleaning regimes.
“Lifeguarding on the beach is already a significant challenge due to the nature of the role in a difficult environment and it is simply not possible to operate the lifeguard service as in previous years.
“There are no official national procedures for running a lifeguard service during a pandemic so we are in new territory.
“The absolute priority is to reduce risk and keep people safe. We urge the public to help the team by behaving responsibly on the beach and in the sea.”
The council added: “As well as emergency response, Brighton and Hove’s seafront team is also developing risk assessments and protocols for dealing with situations that include mental health crisis, effects from alcohol and drug misuse and lost children.
“Please help us maintain a safe and enjoyable seafront by taking extra care if you are swimming in the sea. The current is strong and the water is not as warm as it looks.
“Please keep an eye on children near the water’s edge and keep pets on leads and away from the shoreline.
“Your co-operation will help reduce the risk of putting extra strain on our emergency services and seafront team at this difficult time.
“There is additional information about seaside safety on the RNLI’s website.
“If you are heading to the beach, please observe the government’s social distancing requirements and enjoy the beach responsibly. That includes disposing of litter in the appropriate bins provided.”