Lifeguards now enforcers for South Florida beaches

Since COVID-19 closures, Ocean Rescue jobs have changed a bit

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Beaches are empty all across South Florida and even without swimmers and sunbathers, the lifeguards are still working. They say their jobs are a bit different in the new normal of closures due to the coronavirus and emergency stay-at-home orders.

The men and women who protect the pristine stretches of sand from Miami-Dade to Broward counties are still patrolling the beaches, but their duties have changed a little. Now they are enforcers, keeping people away.

"It's very weird. On a daily basis, when it's crowded, we talk to thousands of people," said Chief Alex O'Connor with Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue.

She said every lifeguard tower is still staffed in case of emergencies and in an effort to keep people off the beach.

"We do help the police department enforce the beach closure," said O'Connor "People do try to sneak on, they are getting stir crazy. It's been a month since the beach has been closed so people want to get out here."

That's also the case on Hollywood Beach, where some lifeguards are working later shifts to keep people off the sand.

In Miami Beach, Ocean Rescue is posted at beach entrances.

Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue also trades off shifts delivering supplies to first responders.

Most lifeguards want to get back to their usual duties when the beaches are crowded again with locals and tourists. This lonely view is not what they signed up for.

“We’re getting stir crazy as well. We want the beach to open back up and we are training for when that does happen,” said O’Connor.

About the Author:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.