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Lifeguards present water safety awareness to hotel staff, management

WAIPOULI — Lt. Kleve Zarbaugh of the Kaua‘i Fire Department’s Ocean Safety Bureau said the area right outside of Lava Lava Beach Club at the Kaua‘i Shores Hotel is an area where they have had rescues in the past.

Zarbaugh was speaking to about 30 associates of the Kaua‘i Shores Hotel Tuesday during an ocean safety briefing that was coordinated by Chantal Zarbaugh, the business development officer at Kaua‘i Federal Credit Union, and Jennie Waiwaiole-Vega, general manager at Kaua‘i Shores Hotel, a Kaua‘i FCU Lokahi partner.

“This is almost the same Water Awareness Visitor Education (WAVE) program we did for resorts before the pandemic shut everything down,” Kleve Zarbaugh said during the Kaua‘i Shores’ monthly employee luncheon.

“WAVE ensures that staff and management understand how important it is to encourage anyone — not just visitors — to swim at lifeguarded beaches, how unpredictable the ocean is, and what you need to do if someone is in trouble.”

OSB shared statistics in the presentation to reflect the current trends given the relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions and the increasing amounts of visitors to the island.

“In 2018, we had nine drownings on Kaua‘i,” Kleve Zarbaugh said. “That increased to 17 drowning in 2019, just before the pandemic hit. As the island tightened up following the arrival of the pandemic, the number of drownings in 2020 dropped to just three. Those were Kaua‘i residents. When things started opening up in 2021, the number of drownings also increased, to six. Today, we’re not even halfway into the year, and already we have had three people lost. This is only the recent ones that I can think of.”

Chantal Zarbaugh, wife of Kleve Zarbaugh, said after discussing the recent water tragedies with Waiwaiole-Vega, OSB should educate the staff so when they are speaking with guests, their families and friends, they are armed with ocean safety tips that could possibly save a life.

“It’s important to me to be socially conscious of what is happening, to support our lifeguards, and to be part of the solution,” Chantal Zarbaugh said. “I personally feel that it is our responsibility to inform and do something to help lessen the risk of tragedy in our community when it comes to our beaches.”

OSB interacted with more than two million beach visitors on Kaua‘i in 2019, performing 297 rescues, 30 watercraft rescues, 119,672 preventive actions and 1,739 first aids responses.

In 2020, those numbers dropped to just over one million beach visitors, with OSB acting on 122 rescues, 16 watercraft ski rescues, 38,878 preventive actions and 1,432 first aids responses.

With the loosening grip of the pandemic in 2021, OSB met with nearly 1.5 million beach visitors, performed 274 rescues, 40 watercraft rescues by the roving patrol units, 57,716 preventive actions and 1,915 first aids responses.

“The best thing you can do for your guests is to make sure they get the beach safety awareness brochure,” Kleve Zarbaugh said. “We need to have them go through the brochure.”

Waiwaiole-Vega said Kaua‘i Shores used to have brochures in every room for guests, but due to COVID-19 the cards can’t be in the rooms. Instead, the brochures are now available at the front desk when guests check in.

“We need people like yourself to help us share ocean safety awareness, to help save lives and express gratitude to our Ocean Safety Bureau lifeguards for all they do for our community,” Chantal Zarbaugh said.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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