SEASIDE - "There's a green and yellow flag that means that conditions are safe," beach lifeguard Dan Chamberlain said.
"We never fly that."
Chamberlain spoke to the Seaside Downtown Development Association Thursday morning as part of a drive for lifeguards to obtain a jet ski, which they say would improve their ability to rescue people in distress from the water.
He noted that Seaside lifeguards have five poles with flags to the north of their white tower, and five to the south. He said the lifeguards only rarely fly a yellow flag. The red flag, which signals the highest level of danger, is the most common.
Seaside lifeguards have had 17 rescues and assists this summer, saving about 40 people, and that there have been no fatalities this year. But Chamberlain said a jet ski would improve rescue efforts by allowing lifeguards to reach the scene more quickly. A fellow lifeguard said it only takes three minutes to drown, and spotting a person in trouble may take time.
"Chances of missing one miscellaneous thing are pretty good when there's 265 people in the water," Chamberlain said, referring to a count he made on one of the busiest days.
He said the new binoculars and tower the lifeguards received have helped enormously.
"You can see them losing their feet, the panicked look."
Fire Chief Joe Dotson said Cannon Beach lifeguards receive two jet skis every two years. He said getting all required equipment for those two jet skis and training and equipping six lifeguards would cost $26,000.
Despite the cost, members of the SDDA supported the idea.
"The bad publicity that happens because of a drowning can really devastate a tourist community," said Jeff TerHar, of TerHar Clothing Store.
"What you do is you go rescue a rich guy," quipped Elaine Quinn, an employee of the retirement community, Neawanna By The Sea.
"They don't like to admit they've been rescued," Chamberlain answered.