Praise for Florida Lifeguard Fired for Rescuing Drowning Man

On July 11, 2012 by Kennethrobinson
Florida Lifeguard station

Florida Lifeguard Station – Image courtesy of Tomas Fano

Praise for Florida Lifeguard

Praise for Florida Lifeguard Tomas Lopez has flowed in; the former a lifeguard at Hallendale Beach, Florida is to receive the key to the city in a symbolic gesture of recognition for his efforts in saving a man’s life. A lifeguard saving someone from drowning? All part of the job you might think – only in this case it wasn’t.

After his daring rescue, rather than receiving congratulations as you might expect, Lopez was promptly fired by Jeff Ellis Management, the Orlando-based firm that provides lifeguard services to the city.

Company bosses disciplined Lopez for running past the boundaries that the firm is contracted to protect. The firm has been providing lifeguarding to the Hallendale Beach since 2003, when the service was privatised as part of cost-cutting measures. Their contract, renewed in 2009, is set for review in September and is worth approximately $1 million.

In 2007, the company was forced to reimburse the city $500 after it withdrew its lifeguards in rough conditions and a woman nearly drowned, only to be rescued by lifeguards from a neighbouring jurisdiction.

The company, which has never sought certification from the United States Lifesaving Association, uses its own in-house training, but has been criticised by those who say this is largely pool-based and not appropriate for ocean conditions. Indeed, Hallandale Beach is the only place in Florida that uses the firm’s lifeguard services for beaches. Whilst the firm does cater for pools around the state, when nearby Dania Beach pondered a similar outsourcing in 2005, the idea was defeated owing to residents and employees concerns that the company’s ocean rescue capabilities were not up to scratch.

The row has now become a political issue, with city officials seeking to review the company’s contract, and a number openly calling for lifeguarding to be taken back in-house.

Eventually, all the bad PR led to the Jeff Ellis Management offering Lopez his job back. He declined. He will now be given the freedom of the city as politicians scramble to save face in the ridiculous affair.

It’s reassuring to know that none of Florida Holidays delightful coastal destinations obtain their lifeguard provision from the firm in question. Perhaps less reassuring to know then, is the fact that despite protests from Prince William, the UK is pressing ahead with plans to out-source significant elements of its own coastal emergency response services – you’ve guessed it, to save money.