More beach volunteers needed to ensure safety

Glynn County commissioners and the county police department have expressed concern about beach safety on St. Simons Island. They've taken steps to improve safety by posting information about sandbars and currents at public beach access points. The hope is that everyone who plans to swim in the ocean will ingest the information on the signs before putting the first toe in the sea.

That is being proactive, but is it enough? The community has already had a drowning since the placement of the advisories. A 63-year-old woman from Pennsylvania drowned off the beach of Massengale Park on St. Simons Island Sept. 12.

No lifeguards were present at the time. As everyone knows, Glynn County ends their daily watch for the year on Labor Day. Even during the summer season, their time is limited due to funding.

That's not to say lifeguards could have prevented the loss of a life Sept. 12 even had they been around. It's uncertain how quickly or even how the death occurred.

But this much is for certain: any eyes at all on swimmers is better than no eyes at all, especially when the swimming hole is the Atlantic Ocean.

Here's an idea the county might ponder as it roots for ideas to further improve safety at the beaches: How about asking for volunteer watchers? These can be men and women 18 years of age or older who can patrol the beach, perhaps in shifts lasting several hours, while driving a county-provided all-terrain vehicle. Volunteers would be called to duty a month leading up to Memorial Day, a month beyond Labor Day and during vacation season from the quitting time of paid staff to just before dusk. They would be equipped with a radio that would be a direct link to the closest Glynn County fire station. They also would be able to contact county police when necessary.

The county, of course, would train the volunteers, who would be taught what to look for and what to do in an emergency. They would wear a special shirt and/or bathing suit identifying them as a Beach Patrol Volunteer.

Volunteers shouldn't be hard to find. If the state can find them to drive all-terrain vehicles into the dead of night to watch for sea turtles and their eggs, then the county should be able to find men and women who are interested in helping to save human lives.