Monday December 9, 2013
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On Monday, July 2, 2012, Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard on Hallandale Beach, Florida, was on his stand when a beach goer rushed up and asked him for help. Lopez looked and saw a man struggling in the water outside his normal area of responsibility. He jumped off his stand and ran to the man's aid.
It was a long run and by the time he got there some people had managed to pull the drowning man out of the water, but he was semi-conscious and had water in his lungs. Lopez and an off-duty nurse helped the man until the city's paramedics arrived. As of yesterday, the man Lopez rushed to save remained hospitalized and was still in intensive care.
In the meantime, according to company supervisor Susan Ellis, other lifeguards watched Lopez's area during the rescue, and were on the phone with 911 operators. "The beach remained protected at all times," Ellis said.
Hallandale Beach is a public beach for which the city put out a contract for lifeguard service to a private company in 2003. The city pays Jeff Ellis and Associates over $334,000 a year to provide four lifeguards and one supervisor at the beach year-round, said city spokesman Peter Dobens.
After the rescue, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report, and then fired him for leaving his assigned area. The job pays $8.25 an hour.
Lopez, the lifeguard, says, "It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no."
The firing of Lopez has drawn harsh criticism; two other lifeguards have quit in protest. The natural question which arises is whether or not the primary concern of the private company involved was possible future negotiations on enlarging the area it serves. The rescue was performed about 1,500 feet south of the protective boundaries set by the company. The unprotected area has signs alerting swimmers to swim at their own risk.
How does that make you feel?
Lopez's employer should have given him a raise and made him a hero in the press.
If they were more concerned about taking their responsibilty seriously, making the people safe was the priority thing to do.
But paying Lopez 8.25 an hour says they didn't give a hoot about keeping the beaches safe, they were more concerned with trying to make a profit providing "psuedo safety to their employer". The minute they fired Lopez, their contract should have fired as well.
If that were my community, I'd have found a way to fire the Service and hire Lopez, giving him enough resources to find more people like him to take care of the job. I'll even bet they could do it cheaper the people who fired him.
At $8.25 an hour (probably with no benefits) the company is making out like a bandit with its $334,000 contract. I know, I know maintenance, etc. of the lifeguard chairs, posting of signs, etc.
Does this story fit in with fire departments that refuse to put out fires that are not in their "district?"
I will only speak to your question about fire departments. No fire dept. will fight a house fire in areas that do not have fire service contracts, ie: Deer Valley. The reason is, their insurance company would not cover anything that might happen on that call. That includes any injuries that occur to firefighters or any law suits that might arise from their being there. As tight as budgets are, no chief officer would dare take the risk.
Fire departments are a tougher call, but I'd be willing to bet that if a fire department was faced with the same type of choice it would opt to rescue the individual.
The difference between a burning house--however if may hurt to lose all those things that are "you"--added to the question of whether or not you could get there in time, the question of how much you could do when you got there, and so on, make a big difference.
I would be willing to guess, though, that if a fire department were on the scene when something happened, and it was possible to help, the help would be there.
Here's the latest on the lifeguards:
"(CBS News) The lifeguard who was fired for rescuing a drowning man outside his designated watch area will be offered his job back, but he -- nor the other lifeguards who were fired or resigned in protest -- have no plans to return."
A total of four lifeguards have left the company.
"Jeff Ellis, the head of the private contractor who hires lifeguards for Hallandale Beach in southern Florida, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Tomas Lopez was fired too quickly after he ran about 1,500 feet south of the firm's boundaries to an unguarded zone to run to a swimmer's aid Monday."
"'I am of the opinion that the supervisors acted hastily,' Ellis said in a phone interview with the paper. He added that since the incident, he learned that other lifeguards had attended to Lopez's post when he ran off to the far-a-way swimmer. In those circumstances, Ellis said, he should not have been fired.'"
Now, I want you particularly take notice of the name of the supervisor who commented in the first part of this story:
"A supervisor for Jeff Ellis Management, who has been under contract with the city beach since 2003, originally said Lopez was fired because he broke a company rules and could have put beachgoers in his section in jeopardy."
"'We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area,'" Susan Ellis told the Sun-Sentinel. 'What he did was his own decision, he knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do.'"
"Jeff Ellis?" "Susan Ellis?"
How much do you want to bet that when this contract comes up fort renewal there's a lot of flack?
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