2019 Beach Preparedness

Town of Wellfleet 2019 Beach Preparedness

Although they have existed for years the presence of great white sharks on the outer cape and their interaction with humans is a relatively new phenomenon. The number of white sharks coming close to shore to feed on seals at swimming beaches is increasing. Since 2012, there have been five significant incidents involving white sharks and humans, including a life- threatening injury and a fatal attack in 2018. With the growing seal population drawing additional white sharks to the region each year, it is anticipated that the potential for increased human-shark interaction will grow as well.

The Town of Wellfleet acknowledges that there isn’t one ‘solution’ that will make swimmers and surfers 100% safe. No ocean community anywhere on the East Coast can make that claim. We can continue to research shark and seal behavior and we can continue to improve our response to a shark-human interaction. While acknowledging that there will always be a risk of a shark-human interaction for anyone in the water anywhere on the East Cost we are working to improve our response to a shark-human interaction. Stop the Bleed Training The Town of Wellfleet and other Outer Cape communities are conducting on-going Stop the Bleed training. Stop the Bleed continues to empower the general public to make a difference in a life-threatening emergency by teaching them the basic techniques of bleeding control. First responders and life guards have participated in training and the Town encourages beach goers to participate in the training. In the event of an emergency stopping the bleeding is essential. Extended Life Guard Monitoring The Town intends to extend the life guard season through the end of September. This is dependent upon the ability to secure staff, many of which work during the summer while out of school. The Town intends to have life guards on duty weekends through the end of September provided staff is available. Guards may not be on duty during inclement weather in September. Emergency Call Boxes. Every beach from Chatham to Provincetown needs to be equipped with emergency call boxes directly tied to emergency services. These will be located as close to the beach itself and carry a blue light for ready notice. The technology is widely used around the country at college campuses. With these call boxes in place, every visitor to the beach will be able to contact 911 quickly. With cell service questionable in these locations, visitors must be able to connect directly to 911 in each community in case of an emergency. Wellfleet has ordered Emergency Call Boxes and is waiting on delivery and installation. They are expected to be in place for the 2019 season. Specialized & Dedicated Life Saving Equipment at Beaches. Currently a first responder is required to walk/run to the patient carrying all the equipment on their back. Should the patient require transport to a medical facility the first responder is required to carry the patient along with any needed equipment wasting precious time during the critical ‘golden hour’ of emergency response. Wellfleet has ordered a Utility Terrain Vehicle supplied with all necessary medical equipment to be ready at any time for a first responder to utilize to reach a patient. Delivery of the vehicle is expected prior to the 2019 season. Ongoing consistent messaging regarding the presence of sharks and ongoing education to the public. The Shark Working Group, established in 2012, has been working on education and messaging since their inception. It’s a regional effort to convey to the public and communicated in myriad ways, in person and on-line, including: How to reduce the risk of an interaction with a shark; What to do should you witness a shark in the water; Education on how to ‘Stop the Bleed’ should you see a shark attack victim; and Education on how to use a shark bite kit. Equip Town Vehicles The Town has supplied town vehicles and all public safety vehicles with “stop the bleed“ kits and trainings are on-gong. Uniform Beach Signage The Town of Wellfleet, the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Towns of Provincetown, Truro, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham have invested in a uniform beach signage program to alert the public to the potential risks. Acknowledgement: The Town of Wellfleet and the Towns of Provincetown, Truro, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham acknowledge the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Baker-Polito Administration with support from State Senator Julian Cyr and staff and State Representative Peake and staff for providing a $383,000 grant to assist the six Outer Cape Communities with the implementation of many of the items described above. The six communities would also like to acknowledge the Cape Cod Commission which provided a $15,000 grant to help fund the research described below. Research possible deterrent and detection devices The Town of Wellfleet joined with the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Outer Cape towns of Provincetown, Truro, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham along with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to fund a study by the Woods Hole Group of the effectiveness of possible shark deterrent systems and possible shark detection devices. Shortly after the fatal attack last fall we were inundated with possible deterrent and detection systems all claiming to be effective. To our knowledge there isn’t a 100% effective deterrent or detection system. And the effectiveness of each system will vary depending on a number of factors including the ocean floor, water temperatures, the shoreline, etc. As we know, no Outer Cape beach is the same. The Town of Wellfleet does not feel it responsible to ‘test’ a certain product or gimmick without knowing its effectiveness. To put ‘product A’ in the water and tell swimmers they are safer because of it would be irresponsible. There isn’t a quick fix to the issue. Sharks and seals are in their natural habitat. We as humans have to modify our behavior. We hope this study will help us find a possible deterrent or detection device that will make swimmers safer while acknowledging that nothing we do will make anyone 100% safe. No ocean front community anywhere on the East Coast can make that claim.