Over the last few weeks, Guam’s weather has been less than ideal, particularly for water activities.
In the last several weeks, there have been at least five advisories warning residents of hazardous sea conditions. And yet, the Guam Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam have had to go out to rescue people who were in distress.
On Sunday, rescue personnel raced to Tumon Bay and rushed a swimmer to Naval Hospital. A swimmer was swept over the reefline outside the Hotel Nikko Guam, the Guam Fire Department stated.
That incident took place in the same hour that GFD and Coast Guard rescue personnel managed to bring two distressed swimmers safely back to shore in Merizo.
Just two days before, a fisherman drowned in Merizo waters, police confirmed.
The incidents were enough for first responders to send out a joint plea to the community.
GFD, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Navy's Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 have responded to several cases of drownings, distressed swimmers, and other water-related emergencies, according to their statement.
"With the warnings that have been issued and disseminated to the public, the importance of the advisories on water activities should be considered," the first responders stated.
Unnecessary risks pose a danger to responders and Good Samaritans, the first responders stated.
As a community, we must do better to be aware of the water conditions before we go swimming, fishing, boating or diving.
Guam residents get these advisories through news reports and social media.
However, tourists don't necessarily get the same information residents receive, and this has to improve. Not only are tourists unfamiliar with the dangers of our rip currents, they also have to be timely informed of safety advisories.
Tour companies and water sports businesses have to heed safety advisories – shutting down for the day if needed – to ensure lives aren’t jeopardized. Over the past few days, we noticed tourists operating personal watercraft and being taken out to sea on fishing boat charters – even after warnings of rough sea conditions and the danger of riptides.
Dangerous surf and other warnings are regularly updated by the National Weather Service, Tiyan Guam office, which disseminates the information to the Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense, and with the media. The information is made available on official agency websites and social media platforms:
• NWS Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NWSGuam/
• GHS/OCD Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GHSOCD/
And we have to remember that while our rescue personnel signed up to help people who are in distress, they place their lives in danger when doing their job. We can avoid creating emergency situations by being more aware of what’s going on with the water before we get in it.