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Honolulu lifeguard service to extend hours beginning in 2021

Honolulu plans to extend the working hours of lifeguards watching the beaches under a measure adopted by the City Council.

Lifeguard service could be expanded from sunrise to sunset beginning in July 2021.

Lifeguards currently work from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but officials said about 20% of emergencies occur outside the standard hours. A pilot project expanding lifeguard service at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve made the beach safer while boosting employee morale, officials said.

The bill approved by councillors Wednesday calls for the emergency services director to develop a plan to be submitted by January 2021 for implementation six months later.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell indicated he will likely sign the bill.

The cost of extended hours has not been determined, while low state employment and other factors create difficulties in determining how much time will be needed to fully expand coverage, Emergency Services Director Jim Howe said.

The city’s Ocean Safety Division has grown each year for at least the past decade to match the growing number of visitors. Extending lifeguard service from dawn to dusk is “the last major step in the process” to ensure the safety of visitors and residents alike, Howe said.

Several current and former lifeguards testified in favour of the bill during previous hearings. Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union that represents lifeguards, said they have sought extended hours for years.

“That the lifeguards themselves supported this bill shows that their passion for keeping people safe is part of who they are — not just what they do,” Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who introduced the bill, said in a statement.

The Associated Press