G4S lifeguards keep holiday makers safe in Guam
Holidaymakers at a popular tourist hotspot in Guam are now being kept safe by an elite team of skilled G4S lifeguards and beach patrol officers.
Already they have saved several lives and by deterring criminal activity have freed the local police department to deal with more serious incidents.
Instantly recognisable in their distinctive green uniforms, the team of Visitor Safety Officers (VSOs) – comprising reserve and retired police officers, members of the National Guard and trained locals – are now securing the Tumon Bay area of the Pacific island.
As well as patrolling the surrounding area, assisting tourists and acting as extra eyes and ears for the emergency services, VSOs keep a watchful eye on the sea from a mobile lifeguard-style elevated platform.
Since going live earlier this year, the team has already helped save numerous lives – including a swimmer who stepped on a highly venomous stone fish and suffered a severe allergic reaction, a family of four who got into difficulties while swimming, a 72-year-old man in danger of drowning, as well as many young children in need of assistance.
Nearly 1.4 million tourists visit Guam annually, and over the past five years 60 people have lost their lives in the seas around the island – the majority of those in Tumon Bay.
In addition to their lifeguarding success, the team also regularly provides crowd control for special events, helps reunite lost children with their parents and recently assisted the community by directing traffic during a power-cut that knocked out traffic lights.
A key part of the Guam Visitor Bureau’s proposals to increase tourism to the island, the aim is to expand the innovative VSO programme to other areas.
With the increasing popularity of Guam as a destination, the presence of highly visible VSOs ensures a safe and friendly environment for all, complementing the local police presence while acting as ambassadors for the area.
“The original idea behind the VSO programme was that they patrol Tumon, both roadside and beachside, serving dual roles as both security officers and tour guides – able to respond to safety and security incidents as well as provide basic visitor information,” explained Chris Garde, Managing Director, G4S Marianas.
“With VSOs handling minor infractions and incidents, it freed up the police department to focus on major crimes and public safety issues.”
With the initial programme launched in August 2014 proving successful, it was decided to expand the service to include lifeguard duties from the start of this year.
Since the launch of the lifeguard service, 12 near-drownings have been averted, while numerous other swimmers experiencing difficulties have been assisted.
“As a direct result of the programme, the number of tourist drownings has significantly reduced, with the G4S VSOs being directly responsible for saving lives of both tourists and locals,” Chris added.
“The VSO programme model is one that can be replicated in other markets. As well as proving to be financially sound, it provides a valuable lifesaving service to the local community and tourists who visit Guam.”
In recognition of the success of the VSO programme, the team was recently presented with the ‘Helping Hands Award’ by Guam Crime Stoppers.