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Mayor signs resolution to create standalone Ocean Safety Department

HONOLULU – In a ceremony at Honolulu Hale on Wednesday, Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed Resolution 24-103 to create a new standalone Ocean Safety Department, effective immediately. City and County of Honolulu lifeguards now have their own department, a decisive action that follows the unanimous recommendation of an independent task force, which was established at the direction of Mayor Blangiardi.

Mayor Blangiardi also signed Resolution 24-50, FD1, allowing voters to decide on November’s ballot whether to establish an Ocean Safety Commission to oversee the new department. These two resolutions give City and County lifeguards their own department as quickly as possible, while also allowing voters to determine whether a commission ought to provide oversight and accountability for the leadership of the new Ocean Safety Department.

“Our courageous City and County of Honolulu lifeguards race into the face of danger each and every day, in some of the most hazardous ocean conditions on Earth. They deserve our unwavering support and appreciation, because they put their lives on the line for all of us,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “Establishing a standalone Ocean Safety Department is long overdue and we hope it sends a powerful message in helping our lifeguards do their job more effectively and efficiently, while also allowing them to continue to serve as world-leading innovators when it comes to life-saving techniques in the ocean.”

In 2023, Mayor Blangiardi directed that an independent task force be created to study the feasibility of an independent Ocean Safety Department. The task force concluded unanimously that Ocean Safety would operate more effectively on its own. Since 1998, the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division had been paired with the Emergency Medical Services Division under the umbrella of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department.

City Council Chair Tommy Waters, Councilmember Andria Tupola and Councilmember Matt Weyer were absolutely critical to making an independent Ocean Safety Department a reality. They introduced the resolutions that led to this historic day.

“I’m grateful that we are signing Resolution 24-50, FD1 and 24-103 supporting the Ocean Safety Department and Ocean Safety Commission,” said Councilmember Andria Tupola. “We unite with the lifeguards who have gone before, the lifeguards that are here now, and the lifeguards that will come next.”

“The establishment of the Ocean Safety Department marks a pivotal moment for our community,” said City Councilmember Matt Weyer. “For years, concerns over water safety and the need for a standalone department have been voiced by residents, Councilmembers, and local leaders. This initiative not only displays our shared dedication to prioritizing public safety and supporting our City lifeguards, but it is also a significant leap forward in our ongoing efforts to strengthen our resilience against coastal hazards. I am so grateful to be part of this collective effort, and I look forward to working with the administration to support this new department.”

The origin of Oʻahu’s lifeguards traces back to the Waikīkī Beach Boys in 1901, with the Outrigger Canoe Club and the Hui Nalu Surfing Club steering increasingly organized lifeguarding between 1910 and 1917, when Act 201 of the Territory of Hawaiʻi officially established a “Life-Saving Patrol” for Waikīkī Beach, a moment widely recognized as the birth of the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division. In 1949, lifeguards were placed under the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1998, they were placed under the newly created Emergency Services Department, where they stayed until now.

Currently, there are 271 Water Safety Officers, eight rescue ski teams and 42 lifeguard towers monitoring 227 miles of coastline on Oʻahu, utilizing surfboards, fins, jetskis, a deep understanding of the ocean, and their finely honed mental and physical prowess to keep millions of beach-goers safe.

For more key figures and dates in the history of Ocean Safety, please visit:

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