SALT stands for Surfers As Lifesavers Team. Originally started in California (with a different name but the same acronym), SALT is a free public education program that aims to teach surfers and other experienced water-men and -women how to safely and carefully aid drowning persons until trained rescue personnel arrive.
Drowning happens quickly, and submersion can occur in as short a time as 20-60 seconds. Initial distress can quickly lead to panic, struggle, submersion, loss of consciousness, and death. Thus, drowning requires a response of the highest urgency. In the summer, lifeguards protect beachgoers during established hours. But when and where lifeguards are not on duty, the risk of drowning increases dramatically.
In any kind of emergency, citizens are often the first to take action. When someone is drowning in an unguarded location or during an unguarded time, it is often a bystander witness that calls 9-1-1 and initiates the emergency response. On Long Beach Island, of all calls made to 9-1-1 in the “post-season”, approximately 40% are for water rescue.
The current system for dispatching non-lifeguard emergency aid to any drowning in progress involves several steps. Often, rescue teams assemble at their respective stations to mobilize personnel and equipment. Even an above-average response time of three or four minutes is too long for a person struggling in the water to wait.
Many surfers have already aided fellow surfers, swimmers, or boaters in distress. In fact, surfers are ideally suited to make impromptu rescues, as they are often in or near the water, usually with a surfboard and/or wetsuit, have strong swimming and paddling skills, and know how to assess and manage water conditions and hazards. Many say they just “had” to help. On LBI, surfers earn their SALT.
Bob Selfridge, a local surfer, firefighter, lifeguard, and EMT first responder, collaborated with friends and colleagues to bring SALT to LBI. The goal of SALT-LBI is to train surfers to react to drowning events they personally witness or become aware of while nearby. Capitalizing on surfers’ experience and talents, SALT training includes CPR, as well as how to:
- coach victim/s in self-rescue or away from hazards (rip currents, rocks, etc.)
- support victim/s while they visually signal the responding unit and await aid;
- maintain an airway for any unconscious victim/s;
- bring victim/s to a safe location; or
- render aid on the water until reached by rescue watercraft
Free training in SALT skills will be offered at various Island locations throughout the summer. Visit the group’s Facebook page for event announcements and registration. For those interested in a preview or the chance to ask questions or give suggestions, a skills demonstration will be held at 6:00 PM this evening, Friday, April 26, at the pool at St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach.
Questions may be emailed to the SALT Administrator at [email protected].
Follow SALT on Facebook by clicking HERE.