By the end of the 1960s, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., lifeguards responded to emergencies using beach phones at 22 reporting stations along the southern Florida city’s three-mile coastline. Lifeguards communicated with each other, the beach patrol, the police and fire departments, the Coast Guard and Harbor Police, and local medical facilities, according to the January 1969 issue of The American City. The phones, which were provided by the Southern Bell Telephone Co., reduced the amount of time for emergency personnel to report and respond to situations, including medical emergencies, lost children, low-flying planes, boats near the shore, traffic accidents and injuries. “Before beach phones, we had to immediately go through an elaborate system of arm waving movements and hope the guard at the next station would see us,” said then-lifeguard Eugene Bergman. At the end of each day, the phones were removed from the beach.
Today, Fort Lauderdale lifeguards, also known as Ocean Rescue, use digital portable radios manufactured by Motorola to respond to emergencies. The Ocean Rescue Team — lifeguards, four supervising lieutenants and a captain — also can quickly contact public safety personnel, including the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, the police department and the city’s medical director.