Honolulu Ocean Safety today announced the possibility of temporary or intermittent closures of lifeguard towers around Oahu due to a shortage of staffing availability.
The closures will be done strategically and sparingly, officials said, and will occur where there is the least amount of ocean activity expected for the day.
Ocean Safety, a division of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, currently has 241 full-time lifeguards covering 227 miles of coastline, but demands have increased due to a new “dawn to dusk” mandate, which required more coverage over the summer, and eight additional mobile response units to respond to 911 calls.
The scheduled closures will be announced in the morning through the city’s HNL.Info app, which offers customized alerts on traffic, weather, and ocean safety.
Today, for instance, a morning alert informs users that lifeguard towers 31B at Laniakea Beach and 27 at Ke Waena, or Rockpiles, on Oahu’s North Shore, are closed.
“As we grow a program providing more coverage throughout the day, it’s important for us to communicate to ocean goers and beach users if we are reallocating personnel that results in tower closures,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief John Titchen in a news release. “We are particularly concerned at being proactive with these announcements as we get ready for ‘winter surf’ on the North Shore and Leeward Coast.”
Ocean Safety may, on average, close one to two towers daily, officials said, with no closures on some days. On Oahu, there are 41 lifeguard towers, with additional mobile lifeguards on patrol daily.
The mobile lifeguards patrol beaches where towers are not staffed on all-terrain vehicles and in trucks.
The public is advised to seek beaches where lifeguard towers are staffed, officials said, if they have concerns or reservations about entering the water. Current hours are from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Also, the public should always call 911 immediately if someone needs help in the ocean.