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Saying it's long overdue, New York lifeguards seeks first responder designation

New York lifeguards seeks first responder designation
New York lifeguards seeks first responder designation 02:18

JONES BEACH, N.Y. -- As the season soon wraps up for 1,100 New York State Parks lifeguards, they're asking for more than just thanks for the lives they've saved.

They want official designation as first responders.

As a Jones Beach lifeguard, Tyler Pawlowski has made more than 40 rescues in an unpredictable and often unforgiving environment.

"Especially the busy days where the rip currents are really sucking people out, most certainly people would die if we were not here doing our job every day," Pawlowski said.

They brave deadly riptides, and are the first line of defense for massive trauma and heat stroke, but they are not classified as first responders, like other heroes who rush into danger to save lives.

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Leading rigorous lifeguard training, Eddie Costigan knows what the professional designation means. He's a retired New York City firefighter.

"Everything and anything that any other first responder does, we do, in addition to drowning victims, taking people out of the water that are not unconscious and not breathing, which has first responder all over it," Costigan said.

Ryan Clark, the president of the New York State Lifeguard Corps, is lobbying to add the recognition as first responders, for the benefits and protections.

"If we're out there doing training and we get attacked by a shark, we don't have access to the same health care," Clark said.

READ MORESerious shark bite at Rockaway Beach prompts bleed control training for Hempstead lifeguards

The recognition would mean access to vaccines, improved health care, and education discounts. It's up to state legislators and the governor who two years ago added 911 operators.

"We do the same job. We are often there before them. We are calling the 911 operators to get more help. So how do we not qualify?" Clark said.

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"I thought they would be already. They do CPR, first aid, all this stuff and they take a chance -- so definitely," beachgoer said.

"If somebody is drowning, you're not calling the fire department, EMS, anything. These people, men and women, risk their lives from shark attack," another said.

Amid a lifeguard shortage, it could also be a recruitment, too. Lifeguards say there is prestige associated with the designation, which they believe is long overdue.

The designation could bring additional costs to the state. A spokesman said Gov. Kathy Hochul will review all legislation, if a proposal were to pass both houses.

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