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Memorial Day Marks The Start Of The Busy Season For OC Beach Patrol

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Beach Patrol
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Gigi Barnett anchors the Weekend Morning Edition with Meteorologist...
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OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) — At the break of day, men and women in red swimsuits hit the beach in Ocean City. They’re members of the Beach Patrol.

As Gigi Barnett reports, training for the job begins long before the holiday weekend.

For Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguards, grueling exercise is constant. It’s because emergencies aren’t planned—but being prepared is.

Veteran lifeguards are like drill sergeants this holiday weekend, pushing new recruits harder.

Memorial Day marks the start of the busy season, when the beach is crowded and an emergency situation can spiral out of control fast.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever actually swam in the ocean,” said lifeguard Emily Gartrell.

Gartrell trained herself to pass the patrol’s swim test. Now she does drills in 50 degree water. The timid need not apply.

“The thought of being able to go out and actually save someone’s life…[the water] doesn’t really seem that bad,” Gartrell said.

While sunburn is the most common injury on the beach, lifeguards say the bigger danger is the riptides. Many swimmers just don’t realize how powerful they are.

“Our goal is to prevent people from getting into trouble before they actually do. Because if you get into trouble in the surf, you’re not having a good time. You’re not going to want to come down here and do it again,” said Lt. Ward Kovacs, Ocean City Beach Patrol.

One tip lifeguards offer to everyone on the beach: keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard hits the stands.

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