Navarre Beach is on par to shatter the existing tourism records, and that is creating a public safety need for more life guards. But tourism revenues will be used to cover the cost of more life guards who will also work longer hours.
Two years ago the county decided to outsource life guards via Navarre Beach Fire Rescue.
NBFR Beach Safety Chief Austin Turnbull on Tuesday addressed the Santa Rosa County Commission during the board’s first 2021-2022 fiscal year workshop.
District 3 Commissioner James Calkins, who previously operated a small business on the beach, said there has been a significant improvement since NBFR took over operations.
Turnbull told board members that to date in 2021 his department has made 75 rescues. That is already more than the previous two years combined.
To remedy the need for increased public safety, the department plans to double the life guards from 5 to 10 working on weekends and increase the shifts to 10-hour days from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Additionally, NBFR plans to increase the pay from $13 to be comparable to other nearby agencies which pay $15-16 per hour.
The department has also taken other measures to provide better public safety, including the use of drones and wave runners. Turnbull said the entire NBFR staff is first-responder certified and that all graduates of the agency’s Junior Life Guard program receive CPR certification.
“This is keeping people’s lives safe, and that’s commendable,” said Calkins.