No lifeguards on Tybee for Spring Break

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - Spring Break season is in full swing on Tybee Island, but the city doesn't beef up their medical and safety resources until the end of April.

You won't see a lifeguard on the beach for another month. They've even grouped all of the big chairs that are stationed along the beach on the southside of Tybee. Not having lifeguards didn't stop tourists from flocking to the beach on Wednesday, but it did make some of them think twice.

The signs are everywhere. Beachgoers from across the country and right here in Savannah are crowding Tybee for Spring Break.

"Tybee is a beautiful place to vacation with the family. This is our second time here," said Ed Werntz, from Dover, OH.

It almost looks like summer with the sand, waves, and family fun, but one thing is missing, and that's the lifeguards. Fire Chief Ashley Fields says the Tybee Ocean Rescue crew of up to 40 seasonal lifeguards are managed by the fire department.

"The guard stations are pulled off. The beach is cleared. No lifeguards at all out there," Chief Fields said.

In a few weeks, the crew will begin training and testing for Summer 2018. Until then, the fire chief says to stay with a group in the water - because of the threat of rip currents.

"The main thing you need to do is stay calm and swim out of it," Chief Fields said. "Just swim parallel to the beach until you get out of the current, then swim on it. Again, if you are with friends, just wave your hands for help."

Some parents didn't mind their absence.

"I've seen the signs for no lifeguards, so I really think it's swim at your own risk, so take care of yourself," Werntz said.

Some, however, are giving it some thought. A dad of four from Indiana says they might be needed during this busy spring break season.

"I'd rather there be something close. I think there's a good chance of accidents at a beach, so it wouldn't hurt to have something - a small office on the beach or something," Rodney Pheifer said.

Chief Fields says they have no plans to extend the lifeguard calendar to include spring break season. Until the official season starts at the end of April, firefighters will respond to 911 rescue calls on Tybee.

"First, let's start with their tests. They have to swim. They go through a five-day camp. They cover basic first aid," Chief Fields said.

This team is certainly qualified, but with warm weather in the offseason, it's important to know there are no lifeguards there. The chief tells us every Tybee firefighter is lifeguard certified so that in these off-season months, they are still prepared.

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