First responders, lifeguards ready as beach season begins

Memorial Day weekend 2014. (WAVY News)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Memorial Day weekend brings thousands of people to the Oceanfront each year, but the kickoff to the summer season can also be a dangerous time. Lifeguards are on the lookout for people testing the waters and their swimming skills.

Tom Gill, the Deputy Chief for the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, said Saturday was the first full day for the beach lifeguards, although the crew has been preparing for weeks.

“We spend a long time during the spring getting ready for this day,” said Gill.

Gill said the weeks prior to the summer kickoff are mostly spent doing training and qualifiers.

“Getting the stands ready,” Gill explained. “Getting the first aid kits ready. Getting the buoys marked and back up and the stands back out onto the shoreline, so they have a great view of the swimmers out there.”

While lifeguards can run medical calls and help if a child gets separated from his or her parents on the beach, their main concern is rip currents.

“A lot of times, we’ll make rescues and get in the water and get to people before they even realize they’re in true trouble,” said Gill.

The Virginia Beach Police Department is also working on a holiday schedule for the weekend. The department has extra officers at the Oceanfront on bikes, RVs, and driving around the area.

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