Deployment of lifeguards




Each dismal news story about a drowning off Hawaii’s increasingly busy beach parks signals the need for change in how lifeguards are deployed.

On Oahu’s 29 city beach parks, where the population pressures are most intense, the need for increased staffing is indisputable.

However, proponents for extended-hours coverage, a proposal under consideration by the City Council, have not yet made the persuasive case that theirs is the most effective or efficient means of accomplishing the public-safety goal.

State Health Department records rank drowning No. 5 among the causes of deaths in Hawaii over the past two decades, with nearly half of the victims residents of the state. The toll was 273 drowning victims on Oahu between 2005 and 2014.

In response, Councilwoman Kymberly Pine has introduced Resolution 16-43, which urges the administration to extend the hours for the city’s roughly 140 lifeguards’ coverage, now largely limited to 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

It also calls for negotiations enabling the plan to be conducted with the lifeguards’ union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

The measure doesn’t specify exactly how this would play out, but among the overwhelmingly supportive testimony for the resolution are comments suggesting a four-day, 10-hour workweek. Proponents for that plan say that schedule would allow guards to recuperate and may decrease sick leave.

Ian Santee, deputy director of the city Emergency Services Department, said his office supports the intent of the resolution. However he projected that the city would need to hire at least 40 to 50 more lifeguards to cover shifts from sunrise to sunset. The salaries alone would cost about $3.5 million.

That’s a lot of money, and before the city commits to it, more study is needed. The wording of the resolution, which seems headed for adoption next week, should be tweaked to allow for that study and alternative approaches to be considered.

Officials should examine, for instance, whether public safety may be better served staffing up where the crowds are heaviest and when conditions are most hazardous, as opposed to stretching to meet all daylight hours. Part-time hires should be considered as an alternative.

“We need to start a discussion of how we can expand lifeguard hours,” Pine said last week.

No argument there. However that discussion should widen to bring out a full range of solutions.

Santee asserted that public safety is the city’s No. 1 purpose but rightly emphasized that there are other emergency-service needs that must be covered within budgetary constraints.

The idea he raised — of phasing in expanded hours in key areas — also makes sense.

Everyone agrees on the goal — safer ocean recreation for tourists and local residents alike. As written now, however, the measure pushes the city to lock in expanded hours for full-time staff islandwide.

A more strategic staffing plan, tailored to meet varying conditions throughout the calendar year, could achieve the stated goal at less cost to the taxpayers.

lifeguards ralph godo

Editorial| Island Voices

It’s time to provide resources lifeguards need to do their job

Lifeguards and water safety personnel were in the media spotlight during recent episodes of high surf on Oahu’s North Shore and during the Eddie Aikau surf meet at Waimea Bay last month.

Recognition of their heroic efforts was long overdue, as these professionals perform their duties 365 days a year, not only during periods of high surf and highly publicized international surf contests.

Our City and County lifeguards are vital members of the public safety/first responder team, and for $9.7 million a year, the public receives excellent value for their year-round, islandwide services. It’s time that we recognize their efforts and begin to provide the basic resources they need to do their jobs.

A recent editorial referred to “increased staffing” and “extended-hours coverage” by city lifeguards as if dawn to dusk coverage is an extra benefit for the division (“Deployment of lifeguards needs a look,” Star-Advertiser, March 5).

On the contrary, this coverage is an absolute necessity for the protection of those who are at the beach and in the ocean before 9 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. every day.

Will creating 40-50 lifeguard positions cost the taxpayer? Yes. However, an additional $3.5 million would increase the Ocean Safety Division’s 2017 budget request to approximately $16 million and would bring coverage up to adequate levels, including before and after current hours, for Oahu.

As noted below, the 2017 proposed respective budgets of the Honolulu fire and police departments are 10 and 20 times the amount requested by the Ocean Safety Division:

>> Honolulu Police Department: $249.4 million (actual in 2015); $275.5 million (proposed 2017).

>> Honolulu Fire Department: $119.54 million (2015); $127.8 million (proposed 2017).

>> Emergency Medical Services: $26.27 million (2015); $30 million (proposed 2017).

>> Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services: $9.77 million (2015); $12.69 million (proposed 2017).

If, as state Department of Health statistics indicate, drowning is a leading cause of unintentional deaths in Hawaii, and is the leading cause of death for visitors to our islands; and, if according to United States Lifesaving Association data, chances of drowning at a lifeguarded beach are 1 in 18 million, then providing for adequate lifeguard services at our beaches is a no-brainer.

It is generally agreed that lifeguard services for Oahu’s beaches are essential and should be given serious attention. Providing for this protection is the responsibility of state and county government agencies, and of our elected officials.

Recent efforts by the counties to redefine their share of the transient accommodations tax collected by the state could include provisions to fund basic lifeguard services statewide.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association and the state Legislature recently recognized lifeguards’ essential public safety duties by creating a separate collective bargaining unit (Unit 14) for lifeguards, state sheriffs and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers. This was the first new bargaining unit created in the HGEA in over 30 years, and has finally provided the vehicle to negotiate for wages and benefits comparable with other public safety employees in the state as well as other safety professionals across the country.

Granted, further study is needed to determine the most efficient way to achieve adequate ocean safety/lifeguard coverage. A four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule, use of part-time hires, staggered hour shifts and discretionary scheduling when conditions dictate are examples of measures that can be implemented.

Ultimately, the City Council and administration (with some prodding by their constituents) must agree to work together on addressing and resolving this very important public safety matter.



(808) 768-5001 (808) 768-1217 (fax)




FERUARY 29, 2016


Councilmember Seeks Extended Lifeguard Hours


With record winter swells hitting Oahu’s beaches, Makaha resident Brian Keaulana, former City & County of Honolulu Lifeguard Captain and Hawaii Five-0 celebrity is up bright and early at the shore with rescue equipment to watch dawn patrol surfers. City lifeguards’ shifts don’t start until 9:00 a.m. so Brian and many other ocean-goers recognize a need for safety support in the early morning when swells are big.


“Many ocean-goers head out to the beach in the early morning before any lifeguards are even there. Our waters are strong and their lives are at stake, which is why I try to be proactive and provide safety rescues when I can,” said Brian Keaulana, a surf rescue pioneer who saves lives in the strong Makaha waters every day.


Brian Keaulana grew up in the waters so he understands the magnitude of the ocean and how important it is to have a second set of eyes on shore to be alert of what’s happening in the water. His father, legendary waterman Buffalo Keaulana was the first lifeguard on the Leeward Coast and has saved thousands of lives along the Makaha coastline.  “It’s been a lifestyle and family tradition for us to provide and safeguard our community,” said Brian Keaulana.  “Often times, people venture off into the waters beyond their abilities so we need to be prepared in case an incident happens.  Life is precious and there is a need for increased safety on our beaches.”


Responding to the voices of ocean-goers, water athletes and past and current City lifeguards, Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine recently introduced Resolution 16-43, which urges the City Administration to extend the hours of City and County of Honolulu lifeguards’ coverage of Oahu beaches.


“With an increase of ocean-related deaths, we need to take this seriously and ensure that residents and visitors have the assistance they need when they experience trouble in the water.” Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine said.  “By increasing the hours of lifeguard coverage from dawn to dust on our beaches, we can promote safety for our ʻohana and keiki along our beautiful coastline.”

Resolution 16-43 will be heard tomorrow, March 1, 2016 at the Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee Meeting taking place at Honolulu Hale at 9:00 a.m. Councilmember Pine asks members of the public to attend and offer their support at this meeting. Residents may also submit a written testimony at or by emailing


Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine represents residents of District One (ʻEwa, ʻEwa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko ʻOlina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau, Makua).






Year-round, thousands of residents and visitors enjoy our pristine beaches and waters on the Leeward Coast. With so many keiki and adults enjoying the ocean, we must provide our lifeguards and emergency responders with the opportunities and equipment to be prepared and respond to emergencies in and out of the water. To ensure our district is prepared in ocean safety— Councilmember Pine is committed to keeping our beaches safe and lifeguards equipped to quickly respond when disaster strikes.


To learn firsthand some of the challenges of water rescues in the surf, Councilmember Pine recently spent a Sunday at Makaha Beach with former-City & County lifeguard and water safety expert Brian Keaulana to gain a glimpse of a typical workday of our ocean rescue crews. Aside from the thrilling experience of practicing jet ski rescues in the Makaha surf, Councilmember Pine also got to talk story with Leeward Ocean Safety crew members to understand the importance of being well-equipped to respond to emergencies that could happen in our waters or on the beach throughout the year.


Councilmember Pine and her staff will be working to appropriate funds to improve Ocean Safety, in the FY 2016 budget. This will include funding for a jet ski team (the Leeward District is the only district with one ski, all others have 2 or more), Water Officer training and a new place to store and stage emergency response equipment.

To share your ideas or budget questions, feel  free to contact  


Traccks Beach

A constituent reached out to Councilmember Pine’s office regarding a growing homeless encampment at Tracks Beach close to the Electric Beach side. Individuals were leaving trash, urinating in the area, creating disturbances, and were becoming a safety issue.

Councilmember Pine submitted a Request for Investigation and Services Report to the City to get assistance for the area. HPD connected with the Office of Housing to clean up this area and provide the squatters with aid and support services.

Kealahou West Oahu and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center assessed the housing and health needs of individuals and families in this area and offered access to shelter services, as well as other resources. The constituent recently called Councilmember Pine’s office to update that the area was cleared.

Councilmember Pine is continuing to work with the appropriate departments to ensure that our Waianae coast will continue to be a safer place for our families and keiki.

Ewa homeless

A constituent recently reached out to Councilmember Pine’s office regarding concerns about a homeless man and his belongings camped outside the back corner of Ewa Beach Elementary School. The man’s belongings were sprawled across the entire sidewalk, creating a hazard and limiting the area for pedestrians to walk.

As children frequently travel on this sidewalk, administrators were concerned for their safety– and they requested the City to take action.

Councilmember Pine sent in a request to enforce stored property ordinance on this sidewalk and to get social services and city assistance for this man. After connecting with the Office of Housing, help was on its way.

The Office of Housing contacted service providers to provide outreach services to the area— the Kalihi Palama Health Center and Waikiki Health Care-a-Van coordinated outreach. The providers soon located this individual and offered him access to shelter services and other resources.

Since then, this sidewalk has been cleared out and administrators are relieved that the children can now travel to and from school safely

Leeward bikers are pleased that a 2.5 mile long bike path in Ewa Beach will soon be maintained for use by the City.

City officials have reached an agreement with the West Loch Fairways Community Association to accept responsibility for a bike path which extends from Asing Park to the edge of Waipahu.

Under this agreement, the City has assumed maintenance and liability for the nearly 100,000 square foot easement portion of the bike path.

This portion is part of a larger plan by the City and State to create the Leeward Bike Path, which will eventually stretch from West Oahu to past Pearl Harbor.

EWA bike path map

Picture courtesy of Star Advertiser.


To read more:


Cultural Sites

This morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser features an article about the efforts of Shad Kane from the Kapolei Hawaiian Civic Club, along with other civic clubs and community groups and I to bring awareness to the culture of parks across the Leeward coast.

To read more about our ongoing efforts:

A report by from KITV highlighted our district as the 2nd highest area on our island to have potholes filled. Within the past year, 7,556 potholes in Waianae have been repaired; trailing behind Honolulu’s #1 average of 16,346 potholes that also have been filled.

The City’s Department of Facility Maintenance workers are regularly going out to our district to tend to calls they receive regarding potholes, repairs and maintenance of our roads. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the resources that are readily available to assist you in reporting much-needed infrastructure repairs in our neighborhood, so that our city workers can continue to diligently work to keep our roads safe.

  • City’s Pothole Hotline: To report a city pothole that needs repair, you may reach the City Pothole Report Phone Line at 768-7777. You may also submit your request electronically by filling out a pothole request form online at
  • Honolulu 311: Honolulu 311 is the official mobile application for the City & County of Honolulu and provides a platform for people to report potholes, broken streetlights, cracked sidewalks, illegal dumping, and vandalized/broken signs, and can be downloaded via your smartphone

potholes andrew

The City’s Road Repaving Map is also a resourceful tool that indicates which roads are currently being worked on.  According to this map,  roads in Waianae set for construction in 2015 include the following:


Maiuu Road, Ala Akau Street, Ala Hema Street, Kaupuni Place, Army Street, Old Government Road, Guard Street, Plantation Road, Lihue St, Mill St, Midway Street, Bayview St., Pokai Bay St., Glenmonger St., Alta St., Ala Poko St., Leihoku St., Leileiho Pl., Leipupu Pl., Leihua St., Mokeahi St., Moelua St., Moekolu St., Moeha St., Moelima St., Moekaa Pl., I and more.


To see a full list of Waianae roads that are being repaved this year, feel free to access the City’s Map of Rehabilitation projects at