Rescue response

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    I would like to take this opportunity to respond to your Aug. 18 article, “Rescue units find selves at sea.”

    Los Angeles County’s Ocean Lifeguards are part of the County Fire Department, and its Zuma Lifeguard Headquarters is responsible for coordinating services at the North County beaches — from Las Tunas to Leo Carrillo. “Baywatch” is the name of our rescue boat service, such as Baywatch Malibu or Baywatch del Rey.

    The daily emergencies our service responds to include traffic accidents, ocean swimmers in trouble, first aids, scuba diving accidents and boat rescues. On occasion, incidents occur simultaneously, and the Lifeguard Division has developed a response system to most effectively utilize available resources. The response system can include the state Lifeguard service, the Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Upon receiving Mrs. Von Oeyen’s report of an overdue vessel, shore stations along the Malibu coast and the state Lifeguards at Leo Carrillo were requested to search their sectors of ocean and beach. This coordinated effort proved effective, as the dismasted and capsized vessel was spotted two miles offshore by guards at Zuma. Baywatch Malibu was immediately dispatched to the location, and radio contact was maintained to guide them to the vessel.

    The Von Oeyen family’s strategy of boating safety is to be commended. Creating a plan for an ocean outing, even among experienced sailors, is the first step in ensuring a safe trip. Mrs. Von Oeyen’s prompt report of the overdue vessel allowed the Lifeguard Division to quickly put its emergency response procedure into action. We encourage all ocean users, including sailors, scuba divers and kayakers, to notify a family member or the nearest lifeguard of their intended course and time of return — before heading out to sea. Also, we strongly urge that every person on every vessel wears a life vest, that vessel operators carry a cell phone or VHF hand-held radio, and that all offshore water activities cease well before sunset.

    I apologize for any misunderstanding with the Von Oeyen family regarding this incident. It is the intention of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Operations to provide the most efficient and effective emergency response service at all times and to have all beach visitors return home safely at the end of the day.

    Tom Viren

    section chief