Update: Jeff Ellis & Associates was not involved with firing of the Fla. lifeguard in this discussion, according to a press release the firm put out that is linked below... A lifeguard management firm is under fire this morning for firing a lifeguard who left his zone in an effort to save a drowning man.
Here's a brief news story about the incident:
A Florida lifeguard has been booted from his lifeguard chair for running to save a man who was floundering in the surf.
Tomas Lopez , 21, was fired by his supervisor for vacating his lifeguarding zone to save a man drowning in an unprotected area of the beach in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Monday, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Lopez' employer is not paid to patrol the zone where the man had been in trouble.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Lopez was approached by a beachgoer who pointed out a man struggling in the water nearly 1,500 feet south of his post.
Instinctively, he ran down the beach to save him. By the time Lopez got to him, he had been pulled to shore by fellow beachgoers.
Following his rescue attempt, Lopez was let go for leaving the area he was supposed to be covering.
Jeff Ellis and Associates, a private aquatic safety contractor, is hired by the city to patrol the beaches. The company is also in charge of hiring and training the city's lifeguards.
Susan Ellis, spokeswoman for Jeff Ellis and Associates, told the Sun Sentinel that Lopez broke company rules when he left his zone, and cited "liability issues" that may have occurred as a result of Lopez leaving his designated area.
Ellis could not be reached for further comment.
Some of Lopez's friends rallied for him on his Facebook page where he had posted the Sun Sentinel's article.
"thats messed up but im proud of you for standing up like that and doing whats right. Tomas Lopez = Hero!!" one commenter wrote.
Tom Gill, spokesman for the United States Lifesaving Association, said Lopez's firing came across as a little harsh.
"It seems unfortunate that a guard would do what he's trained to do and be fired for it," he said.
Gill said that the boundaries set by Jeff Ellis and Associates were most likely set by the city of Hallandale Beach in a private contract.
"Usually when the municipalities hire someone to [lifeguard], those organizations are not only taking on the responsibility of the job, but a lot of the liability," he said.
USLA is recognized as the authority on open water lifesaving by the Red Cross, and certifies agencies and associations around the country based on their training.
Gill said Jeff Ellis and Associates has not applied for certification with USLA, and so he could not speak on the company's regulations or training.
"As far as being fired for going outside the zone, I couldn't tell you how they could make that justification," he said.
Here's what an AI reader emailed me this morning:
Nothing could be more idiotic than Jeff Ellis & Associates firing the
heroic lifeguard who saved a drowning man.
Is that how you want to be perceived? If so, you're succeeding. I'm
in California, where the news is a hot topic.
By the way, what would you want a lifeguard to do if it was you
drowning? Stay in his chair?
Have someone punch them out on their timecard, so they are suddenly very well-trained lay responders...
To me, the point here is Ellis (a self proclaimed expert in "Aquatic Risk Management") did not "manage" the inherent risk of the guard's duty to act against the line in the sand drawn by the contract. He could have easily done it. He (Ellis) failed to manage that risk, and instead of saying "I screwed up in my risk planning" he said "you broke a rule, you are fired."
I think we should all take a step back and look at what is going on here. I think by the offering of the lifeguard to get his job back says enough about the issue. It was a knee jerk reaction made by someone on the staff. The reality of the situation is we have all done things that we would love to take back. I think using the words idiotic and derogatory remarks are not the way to go here. This is something that is going to be discussed in alot of places. Where do liabilities fall in this case. What if someone went down while he was off stand. What would have happened if the guards covering the zone which was probably much larger than safe to scan missed something. I agree this was not something to terminate someone over, but the program is solid the E&A Record kind of speaks for itself. Lets all learn from this and move on. Lets make ourselves better because of what happened here. Not tear down a well established program because someone made a call on a policy we all have in place or something similar to the fact. I certainly understand why people feel the way they do. Lets turn this into a positive and learn from it.
Just my thoughts,
The firing of this lifeguard was not a knee-jerk reaction. This lifeguard had been employed for several months and he was instructed that he is not to leave his zone. This lifeguard, along with others, believed this was a ridiculous policy and knew that if an emergency occurred outside of his zone, that he would not adhere to this policy.
All beaches use a cover-up system in that if you have to vacate your stand to effect a rescue, a cover-up guard is then going to cover your stand. I can only assume this policy was in place at this facility. Therefore, the lifeguard's zone was never compromised.
The policy of not venturing out of your zone to intervene in a lifesaving effort at an adjacent beach is absolutely ridiculous. As a Firefighter and EMT, lifeguard, and Water Rescue Technician, I find it repulsive that a policy would be established prohibiting a lifeguard from intervening in an attempt to save someone's life.
Gerald M. Dworkin
LIFESAVING RESOURCES, LLC
See the article, "A lifeguard's soul, outsourced to the bottom line", at http://www.lifesaving.com/general-interest/news/lifeguards-soul-out....
Gerald M. Dworkin
LIFESAVING RESOURCES, LLC
A comment or two on the difference between private and public sector safety services
Gerald Dworkin’s comments are well taken. The public sector exists to perform functions that that promote a public interest; the private sector is defined by, and exists to achieve, its bottom line.
It is safe to suggest that at least some public safety services must enjoy an inherent advantage over the private sector, because of this vested public interest project; arguably it is this project that makes it possible for public agencies to impose a duty on some responders even when they are off duty; this is clearly the case with law enforcement officers.
In California, for example, police officers have a duty to perform even when they are not on the job, ostensibly because there is an identifiable public interest at hand. Law enforcement officers arguably provide a vital public service that is best realized by imposing a duty 24/7. But this imposition creates a cost. There is a trade-off, a consideration, which defines and forges this working relationship as good public policy.
I am not clear how it works in Florida, but in California the state imposes a duty to act on public law enforcement officers above and beyond the layman or private security agent. In return California makes all public law enforcement officers, whether on or off duty, eligible for workers comp in the event they are injured while performing within their scope of duty.
But this is not the case with lifeguards, at least not in California. I am not familiar with any law compelling lifeguards to perform while off duty. If such a law exists, its prescription would require lifeguards never to be off duty; and if injury were to occur, it would make them eligible for workers comp around the clock.
As far as I know, lifeguards are eligible for workers comp only when they are injured while on duty (under the auspices of their employing agency). This indicates to me that whatever duty we believe exists, it is a duty not grounded in law but attributable to a collective moral conscience.
Therefore the distinction between public and private lifeguard agencies, to the best of my knowledge, is incidental as neither compels an off-duty lifeguard to perform. Sure, there are MOU’s defining mutual assistance and jurisdictional responsibilities among public agencies, and it’s been my experience that even where no official agreement exists, there is tacit understanding that when a swimmer needs assistance, jurisdictional authority is a question raised after the rescue is performed, if at all.
Jim Wheeler expresses this position poignantly in his posting when he describes his own experience with extra-jurisdictional rescues as one resulting in looks of “disapproval” by supervision and little more. There are tacit top-down organizational expectations that infuse an unambiguous duty to respond under an implied duty owed to the public at-large, powered by our own moral sensibilities.
This public service imperative gives us license to quiet a life-threatening emergency without hesitation because our actions merge seamlessly with these core public service values. This melding is absent with private concessionaires because the private sector must operate with blind subservience to a rigid business plan (if the company is to survive) and can ill afford to acknowledge any externalities beyond the bottom line.
The long and short of it is: Jeff Ellis Management (JEM) fired its lifeguard because his actions were bad for business (the services rendered were not part of its business plan). Subsequently, the public flack it received forced JEM to reverse its initial decision because, again, negative publicity is bad for business since it tarnishes the brand. This is evident by E & A’s urgent press release to distance itself from its affiliate company, JEM; and Jeff Ellis’ public acts of contrition to quiet the public ire.
The corporate pretzel logic expressed in JEM’s decisions may seem contradictory to the observant public service provider, but this is only because public sector personnel are driven, dare I say it, by the loftier ideals of public service, and are not controlled by the vagaries of the bottom line.
As always some very interesting conversations going on here from some highly intellgent people. I feel sorry for Jeff whether its E&A Management or E&A, the actions of the supervisors in letting the lifeguard go are all related back to Jeff. In 1982 I was working at tower 11 on Carlsbad State Beach on the Oceanside border, it was the northern most tower on the beach and to the north beyond the fence line 50 yards away was miles of unguarded beach in front of hotels and condos. I couldn't help but also look down there when guarding my water. I recall running down there about 600 yards to pull a guy out of a rip that day and when I reurned to my tower I was told by the back-up that showed up that "it was not my area to protect". When I told them I could not just sit and watch the guy struggle I got a dissaproving look from the supervisor then we all went back to our work. This incident in florida might have been handled differenly but hindsight is 20/20...