My Turn: Would adding lifeguards be practical? - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

My Turn: Would adding lifeguards be practical?

WECT's General Manager Gary McNair talks about the practicality of adding lifeguards to the approximately 75 miles of beach between North Topsail and Sunset Beaches. WECT's General Manager Gary McNair talks about the practicality of adding lifeguards to the approximately 75 miles of beach between North Topsail and Sunset Beaches.

Once again this summer, we've reported on another drowning at one of our beaches.

It appears we've had a more dangerous summer than most. And I understand the reaction from some in the community to call for more lifeguards up and down our miles and miles of beaches.

Right now, only Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach have paid lifeguards. The rest of our communities are "swim at your own risk."

Don't get me wrong. I think it would be admirable to consider employing lifeguards in more of our communities. But unfortunately, I'm not sure it's all that practical.

There are approximately 75 miles of beach between North Topsail and Sunset Beach. Even if we had the money, could we really find enough qualified guards to adequately cover that much area?

And even if we were able to accomplish that, it certainly wouldn't guarantee that drownings would become a thing of the past.

I applaud Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach for providing lifeguards during the vacation season. But beyond that, I think each beach town should be able to weigh the pros and cons and determine if providing lifeguards for the summer is in the best interest of their towns, their businesses and their taxpayers. And they should be able to make those decisions without being made to feel like they don't care about public safety.

That's my turn. Now it's your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at


Emailed comments from viewers:

I'm a resident of Brunswick County and although any loss of life is tragic, the logistics of Lifeguards along the entire Bruns Couty coast is not economically feasible.  As often happens after a tragedy, people feel the need to act (often assuming the Gov. somehow has a better idea), but the actions all too often have little to no effect on the problem, increase costs, and are never re-evaluated to determine their value.    Another question to ask is whether this years tragic deaths are a tragic anomaly or an actual sign of a growing trend and it's clearly too early to determine that.  

I know you'll get many comments which will claim any death which can be avoided should be but simply putting Lifeguards along a beach does not guarantee no one will tragically die on our beaches in the fact, can it be said that Lifeguards perhaps give people the confidence they can take chances in dangerous situations? 

I agree with your position 110%.


I disagree.  Visitors that visit our beaches don't know about rip currents and whether the local beaches have life guards.  They choose homes for vacations on the basis of availability and price.  The beach towns have an obligation, and an expectation, to provide safety for visitors. This is no different than fire and police provisions for a community, that happens to promote and provide a beach. It is not a business decision.  Governments are not businesses.  They provide essential safety services to the public.


I liked your comments about lifeguards.  But you left out Kure Beach that also provides life guards. 


Same goes for police and fire departments.


 I think adding lifeguards is a great idea! Of course it wouldnt be practical to think we could monitor every mile of shoreline, but thats not how it works anyway.

 Setting up designated swimming areas that are under supervision by trained lifeguards would make our beaches safe for residents and visitors alike.

 I dont think finding qualified guards would be an issue, with the thousands of college students in the area.

 I encourage anyone who believes that Lifeguards are necessary to join our group, Topsail Island Needs Lifeguards on Facebook.


While any loss of life is horrible it is not an "Obligation" or "Expectation" that the county or local municipalities should provide lifeguards on the beaches. Infact it could increase the liability and exposure of the county and municipalities.

As a surfer I have rescued numerous people of all ages male and female from the surf zone that get caught up in strong currents. This past weekend  I warned a bunch of people that were in a particularly bad spot and  that they should not be out where they were due to strong currents but they did not bother listening. I assume they were fine as there was no new reports of drowning along our stretch of beach. Unfortunately its attitudes like that which get people in trouble adding lifeguards is going to change that attitude.


Why not charge a beach fee for access. This will cover lifeguard salaries & create more jobs in nc!


I listened with great interest to the MyTurn segment you presented on August 6th, regarding a recent rise in local drownings and the reaction by some residents to suggest lifeguards all along our shores. 

                While it's true there are 75 miles of beaches in the area, that doesn't mean that every mile has to be guarded.  Individual towns might consider providing Lifeguards at a couple of their most popular beaches while continuing a "Swim At Your Own Risk" policy at other beach access points. Giving parents the option to take their children to a guarded beach is a potential stimulus for families to vacation in the area.  Certainly, given that many of the local towns rely on the tourist trade as a major contribution to their taxes and overall economy, it is something to be considered.

                Of course, the presence of Lifeguards does not guarantee the prevention of all drownings.  But neither does the presence of Fire Stations guarantee that houses will not be destroyed and that people might die in fires.  But at least we try.  

                You take umbrage to the fact that towns not offering to have lifeguards makes town officials feel like they don't care.  However, I think it's much easier to make your points to a studio camera lens than it would be to a mother who just needlessly lost a child to the turbulence of the ocean.


Hello WECT, my name is Laurie & I'm responding to your editorial on the subject of putting lifeguards on NC beaches.  I grew up at the NJ Shore, specifically Seagirt, where lifguards patrolled perhaps 1/3 of the beaches.  They were spaced out along the beach & most people (myself included) would chose to enter the water where there was a lifeguard on duty.  I still had the opportunity to sit on any  beach I chose, but also to feel like I was protected while swimming. I think this may be the solution to NC's dilemma.

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