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SCBP lifeguard Pratt shares his knowledge with younger colleagues

On vigilant watch. On guard. On the stand. On their toes.

Photo by Mike Stern, Coastal Point

That is the job for a Sea Colony Beach Patrol lifeguard from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through June 14 and from Sept. 3 through Oct. 14, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from June 15 through Sept. 2.

While virtually everyone else around them on the beach is cavorting, reading, sleeping, talking or just taking in the magical salt air, the Guardians by the Sea are ready to spring into action.

Even while being cordial to those who approach the lifeguard stand, they are always on alert. Their eyes remain on the swimmers in the surf even while they are sipping and chewing for sustenance during the long beach day.

Someone’s life may be in danger.

And they are the ones who have the ability to rescue swimmers in need.

The Coastal Point is once again spotlighting one of these Guardians by the Sea with a beach lifeguard feature story each week during the season.

Rescues from a rip current

He was being taken out to sea.

The young child was struggling inside a dangerous, deadly rip current.

Fortunately, Chase Pratt was right on point.

He immediately recognized the dangerous situation.

Pratt and stand partner Marlan McElroy alertly responded.

The dynamic duo of Sea Colony Beach Patrol lifeguards was quickly joined by colleague Elizabeth Fry. The trio quickly raced into the surf and reached the victim and another endangered child.

“Once I approached the scene, I noticed another victim on the other side that had also been sucked out,” said Pratt, a resident of Greenbelt, Md. “I started swimming to the farthest victim, knowing that my stand partner would reach the closer one. Once I reached that victim, I gave them my rescue can and ensured they were OK before I pulled them back in.

“Once I began towing him back to shore, I noticed that three more lifeguards were also in the water and assisting swimmers,” he added. “We all brought in our respective victims, and I educated these swimmers about rip currents. We also ensured that no further medical attention was needed.”

Sea Colony Beach Patrol

The Sea Colony Beach Patrol oversees half a mile of private beach daily from the weekend before Memorial Day to Columbus Day in October. The SCBP is a United States Lifeguard Association Advanced Certified Agency consisting of 21 guards, who are each certified in American Red Cross Lifeguarding, CPR for the Professional Rescuer and Emergency Medical Response. Each of the six SCBP lifeguard stands are located in front of the Sea Colony high-rise condominiums south of Bethany Beach.

SCBP lifeguards respond to land and water emergencies, and they provide information and education about hazards in the sun, weather and ocean. SCBP beach lifeguards train daily to prepare for any situation on land or in water, and they constantly strive to exceed their high standards of open-water safety.

Being a lifeguard means sharing knowledge

For Pratt, being a lifeguard means helping others while continuing to educate oneself.

“That means medical training, swim training and specialized lifeguard drills,” he said. “Another big part of being a lifeguard is working as a team and constantly sharing your knowledge with members of the newest rookie class. As for myself, I will never stop learning from other veteran lifeguards.”

According to the 6-foot-2 Pratt, his easiest responsibility is to stay in shape and continue to train and learn. He admitted that the toughest challenge is to simultaneously juggle so many responsibilities.

“This includes scanning the surf and beach from the stand while on duty, teaching new lifeguards, refreshing your medical knowledge and many other responsibilities,” said Pratt, who will be a senior at the University of Maryland this fall. “This can make the job tough to keep up with, but ultimately, it can be even more rewarding in the long run.”

Initially, Pratt didn’t intend to become a beach lifeguard.

“I had made a prior commitment for an internship, but Sea Colony lost a guard due to an injury, and one of my good college friends asked if I would want to join,” he recalled. “After I completed that internship in South America, I became a beach lifeguard.”

Achieving a long term goal

As this summer season begins, Pratt said he’s achieved one of his long-term goals by earning a promotion to beach patrol officer.

“So, going forward, some of my goals include earning a medal in a competitive event, developing the rookie class into a great group of lifeguards and applying my knowledge from my emergency medical technician class to the beach.”

Pratt said he is thankful for three strong role models who have had a profound impact on his career as a lifeguard.

“First, there’s Ben Little, a former lieutenant at Sea Colony Beach Patrol, because he was the one who recruited me and pushed me to do this,” said Pratt. “He helped me out of my comfort zone and made sure I never quit. Even as he was putting me through rookie school, he was a great leader to learn from on the stand.

“Another wonderful role model is ‘the G-Man,’ Capt. Dave Griffith, because he taught me what it means to be a waterman, a great leader and a great lifeguard. He is an incredible captain, and he’s someone I really look up to.

“The third person who’s had an impact on my career is Lt. Cindy Fajardo, because she is the greatest teacher,” added Pratt. “She has taught me everything there is to know about being a lifeguard and being an emergency medical recorder. She is solely responsible for getting me into medicine. She made our EMR class so interesting that I wanted to be an emergency medical technician, and she helped me every step of the way as I earned my EMT certification this past winter.”

Article by Mike Stern, Coastal Point, June 13, 2024


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