A test camera has already been successfully installed at the
Balboa Pier and another is expected to go in at the Wedge within
several weeks, Bauer said.
The camera broadcasts a live picture onto the Internet via a
wireless connection; the lifeguards can zoom in anywhere they want to
get a closer look. The Internet connection has been provided to the
lifeguards by Seven Seas Internet, a Laguna Beach-based wireless
"It's a definite enhancement to their safety capability," said
Charlie Smith, Seven Seas' director of marketing.
Smith said he's been working on the project for six years. It
makes sense that the technology of wireless cameras be used to
increase public safety, Smith said.
On a wireless laptop inside lifeguard headquarters at the Newport
Pier, Bauer can pull up a real-time video of the Balboa Pier with the
click of the mouse.
The cameras will allow lifeguards to monitor conditions when the
guards are not on duty in towers. Newport Lifeguards only put staff
in towers for a portion of the year, during the busy summer months,
At the Wedge, where the next camera is set to be installed, the
camera will enable lifeguards to enforce the black ball rule, which
prohibits surfing until the end of October, Bauer said.
But the cameras aren't intended to replace lifeguards.
"Cameras can't make rescues -- cameras can't treat people," Bauer
said. "It's another tool in our arsenal to help us be more effective
in treating people."
An Anaheim man drowned in front of an unmanned lifeguard tower
over Labor Day weekend. A rip current pulled him into deep water.
Lifeguard supervisors had taken the guard at Tower 28 off duty
moments earlier due to calm surf and small crowds at the beach that
"The likelihood of preventing something like that before it
happens goes up," Bauer said.
Bauer stressed the importance of swimming near an open lifeguard
tower and checking with the lifeguard before going into the water.
Before the digital camera, lifeguards also tested an analog
television camera at the Balboa Pier, but found the digital camera to
be a better option.