BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Beachgoers in Bal Harbour now can feel safer hitting the surf.
The village has installed 10 life preservers on poles along the nearly mile-long stretch of beach.
Village councilman Martin Packer suggested the idea to Village Manager Alfred Treppeda about two months ago after hearing from residents concerned about safety and a newspaper article about Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s use of the life-saving equipment.
“I had a couple of phone calls from my constituents that we had children in the area, and that why we didn’t have lifeguards,” said Packer, who said the cost of hiring lifeguards was too expensive.
The village installed the life preservers a couple weeks ago near the emergency “code blue” telephones, as well as on walking paths leading to the beach. Each ring hangs on a white pole with red letters, stating “Emergency Use Only.”
Each numbered pole is spaced about 250 feet apart, with a life preserver behind every building on the shore.
The numbered poles allow for rescue crews to locate an emergency easier, officials said. If someone needs to call police or fire rescue, but can’t give an exact location on the beach, they can just give the pole’s number.
“The police dispatcher has a map of all the poles, and we will send help to the area,” Bal Harbour Lt. Charles R. Merrill said.
Merrill said Bal Harbour has had several drownings over the years and that rip currents add to safety concerns.
The police department tries to keep a close eye on beachgoers, he said.
The life rings cost a total of $1,600 and is funded by tourism money.
Packer said installing the life preserver is an asset to the beach.
“If someone is in trouble, someone can just throw a life preserver,” he said.
“I just hope it doesn’t have to be used.”