Lifeguard union says dispatch changes delay rescues in La Jolla and San Diego

On Jan. 21, a woman swept up by the current was rescued by a citizen at La Jolla Children’s Pool (aka Casa Beach). Lifeguard Sgt. Ed Harris, who is a steward for the Teamsters 911 union, said lifeguards were made aware of the emergency call with a 5-minute delay. “We couldn’t see it from lifeguard tower because of high tide,” he explained.

In his opinion, the delay was caused by changes in how emergency calls are dispatched at the Fire Department. “Historically, all water rescues would come straight to the lifeguards, also all medical aids within a few blocks to the beach. The changes add a step, and that’s what’s delaying us,” he said.

However, San Diego Fire Department Chief Brian Fennessy said in a press conference March 15 the changes in the dispatch service were directed to improve the system. “Lifeguard calls often go unanswered because they don’t have training or technology to respond to more than one call at once,” he explained, adding that as a result no calls went unanswered during extreme weather events this year.

Harris said the lifeguards are starting to think of separating from the Fire Department. “San Diego has a so many lifeguards and we make 9,000 water rescues per year. Most of us believe that the city has to start looking at separating us,” he reported.

La Jolla Light will continue to follow this story and report any updates.