Beach safety workers may be working longer hours soon, official says

Talks underway to extend coverage at JBR Open Beach from current two days a week

DUBAI // A plan to extend the hours for safety personnel on the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) Open Beach is under discussion in the wake of two recent drownings there, a senior police official has said.

The police rescue department and municipal authorities are studying the possibility of having rescue workers on patrol every day of the week at the JBR beach. Currently the beach is supervised by police rescue squads on weekends from 6am to sunset.

“We have been holding meetings with the municipality to discuss new measures to be taken to protects lives on Dubai beaches following the recent drowning incidents on March 4,” said Major Ahmed bu Ruqweba, the deputy head of the Dubai Rescue Police. “Among the things we proposed and are working on is to have lifeguards daily to ensure better surveillance of this beach.”

The 50-year-old British nationals Martin Hayle, a tourist, and Paul Gradon, a Dubai resident, perished off the beach in separate incidents this month. Another Dubai resident, Haja Mohammed Ismailuddin, a 26-year-old Indian, died of similar causes at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach.

The discussions also include a plan to have a clearly defined area for public swimming on the JBR beach, as per international standards. Such areas are not in place at the beach at present.

“Not defining a stretch of the beach in which swimmers are only allowed to swim make our surveillance of the beach more difficult, as we are concentrating our efforts on a vast area,” said Maj bu Ruqweba.

Police and municipal officials are expected to have a meeting next week for further discussions on how to best safeguard lives following the incidents.

The JBR beach legally comes under the mandate of the municipality but police rescue units have so far been providing the bulk of the patrols, Major bu Ruqweba. The force’s land and maritime patrols and are involved in case of any incident.

“Although we have full co-ordination with the municipality on all matters, we still need to clarify the responsibilities in the coming weeks,” said Major bu Ruqweba.

Municipality officials said closer co-operation with the police was essential to prevent further tragedies, as well as more awareness by the public about safe swimming conditions.

“We have to work this out with the police and we are working hand in hand,” said said Ibrahim Mohammed Juma, who heads the municipality’s coastal engineering department. “Before the drownings our inspectors were sent to the beaches and liaised with the police to make sure people were not swimming in rough weather.

“Some people do listen but others do not.”

The lack of public awareness on swimming safety was also identified by Major bu Ruqweba as a challenge in beach safety work.

"We can develop our methods and increase lifeguards but things will not change much if people are not willing to listen," he said.

* with additional reporting Maey El Shoush