Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed into law today a bill extending the hours of city lifeguards from sunup to sundown.
Currently, Honolulu Ocean Safety oversees 200 miles of coastlines up to a mile offshore at more than 70 beach parks. Current lifeguard hours at most beaches are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The extended hours are set to begin July 1, 2021.
Bill 39 (2019) CD2, which was introduced by councilwoman Kymberly Pine, noted the increased demand for lifeguard services due to the increasing use of Oahu’s beaches by residents and visitors alike due to tourism promotions and social media posts.
“The tremendous amount of support the bill received from members of the Honolulu City Council throughout the hearing process validates the importance of this legislation to Oahu’s communities, which includes the men and women of the Ocean Safety Division,” said Caldwell in a news release. “As every lifeguard knows, to save a life you have to be flexible, strong, and adaptable, and that’s exactly what this bill does. Oahu lifeguards are the best on the planet and have developed the most advanced ocean safety skills found anywhere on earth. We are fortunate to have these experienced and highly skilled professionals on our beaches and they should be recognized for the true professionals they are.”
The extended hours are long overdue, according to those who testified in support of the bill.
In 2018, the city logged more than 22.5 million visits to beach parks, more than 1 million preventative actions, 104,857 first-aid actions, and 2,148 rescues.
In February, the city extended lifeguard coverage at Hanauma Bay Natural Preserve from sunup to sundown as part of a pilot project to improve safety at the popular snorkeling spot.
“Once this program is fully implemented, our residents and visitors can be assured that when you go to the beach anytime during daylight hours, our highly skilled lifeguards will be there if you need help, leading to more lives being saved,” said Jim Howe, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, in the news release. “Although the bill does not require the program to be implemented until the summer of 2021, the department will make every reasonable effort to get these life-saving services out to the beaches and the public as soon as possible.”
Howe must submit a program and budget for the extended lifeguard hours to the City Council by Jan. 1, 2021.
“I am thrilled the City Council unanimously approved Bill 39,” said Pine, chair of the Business, Economic Development and Tourism Committee in a statement. “Drowning is the number one cause of death among our visitors, the fifth-leading cause of death for kamaaina, and many incidents occur outside normal work hours. This measure will improve the quality of life for our lifeguards by giving them more flexible schedules and it will allow them to save more lives on our beaches.”