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September 24, 1999     Cape Gazette
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September 24, 1999

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C G TTE, Friday, September 24 - September 30, 1999.13 Dewey Beach Patrol captain gives summer stats, wish list for Y2K By Jim Cresson After a summer that began with dangerous ocean rip currents and ended with stormy seas from Hur- ricane Dennis, Dewey Beach Pa- trol Capt. Todd Fritchman report- ed another safe season for beach- goers and an efficient season for lifeguards but added he needs about a dozen new lifeguard stands, wage hikes for his guards and perhaps four or five more pa- trol members next year. In an address at the annual meeting of the Dewey Beach Civic League Saturday, Sept. 18, Fritchman talked-about beach safety, lifeguard professionalism and Dewey Beach Patrol statistics for the past season. He noted the 31-member patrol enabled him to post an average of 25 guards on duty daily through the summer, covering an average of 6,300 beachgoers daily on the l.l-mile beachfront from Silver Lake in the north to Indian Beach in the south. Fritchman reported there were 128 open ocean rescues, one of which involved a lifesaving res- cue he called "the closest we ever came to having a fatality in the water." There were 19 open ocean assists, three beach evacuations due to thunder and lightning, 22 major emergency responses to cases such as seizures, spinal in- juries, broken bones and heat ex- haustion, 11 minor first-aid cases such as sprains, scrapes and burns, and 76 lost children re- turned to their parents in an aver- age return time of 10 minutes. "People come to the beach for a 100-percent stress-free experi- ence," Fritchman said. "They don't want to worry about any- thing; they just want to relax and enjoy themselves. Our guards do a great job protecting the swim- mers and keeping order on the beach. They are well trained and physically fit; most are experi- enced athletes with good work ethics and they are all very good at dealing with the public. But it's getting harder and harder to find good guards, and I'd like to be able to offer them a higher wage next year." Fritchman said part of the guard shortage arises because college students can no longer af- ford to work and live at the beach. "When they do, they have to work another job at night, and that's not the best situation," he said. "What I'm trying to do is find some state grant money to help us attract and train more good guards and offset the costs of our junior lifeguard program. The surrounding states pay their lifeguards double or triple what we pay ours, so we need all the help we can get to raise our wages." He explained that hiring guards is the toughest part of his job, mainly because of the wages he has to offer. "I begin my search in late winter, going to the Universi- Jim erson photos Dewey Beach Patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman, standing left, receives a commemorative photo of a successful two-patrol beach rescue from Rehoboth Beach Patrol guard Pete Hert- zog, right, while Dewey Beach Civic League board president Bobbi Turk, right, and treasurer Jim Duncan look on. Below, in a simulated lifesaving situation during the height of the rip currents that plagued Dewey in late June, Beach Patrol members practice an open ocean rescue using life floats, a rescue board and plenty of human power. Shown is Suzanne Kerns of Brandywine High School, the mock victim rescued by fellow patrol members Bob Fad, Chuck Leto, Keith May. nard, Rick Dresscl and Brian Risko. ty of Delaware, the YMCA and different swim clubs, and I send letters to all state athletics direc- tors," he said. "St. Marks High School [in New Castle County] has been the biggest source of guards for us, providing All-State wrestlers and All-State football players." Dewey Beach Patrol requires its lifeguard candidates to under- go a preseason physical examina- tion, swim tests in the YMCA pool, interviews and discussions with Fritchman and once accept- ed for the patrol, new guards are trained by Fritchman and his staff and certified for ocean rescues and CPR. Patrol members also conduct their junior lifeguard program free of charge to stu- dents ages 11 to 18 and oversee an after-hours youth recreation program on the beach. Fritchman also noted that 10 or 11 of the lifeguard stands are wobbly and unsafe and should probably be re- placed with new stands this year, at a cost of $400 per stand. Mayor Bob Frederick explained the town has doubled its Beach Patrol budget over the past three years but is always ready to help if help is needed. "We'll do all we can to support our guards' needs." In other business at the Civic League annual meeting, members voted to Bob Campbell, Charlie Grieco and Bobbi Turk to their seats on the board of directors. 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