The Costa Rican government last week signed a law creating a National Lifeguard Corps to increase safety on the nation’s beaches.
Law 9780, “Implementation of lifeguard units on national beaches,” creates a National Commission for the Prevention and Care of Drowning, “with the objective of providing security and protecting the life and integrity of those who vacation on the coasts,” according to Casa Presidencial.
The commission will set standards including: minimum conditions and equipment for lifeguard units; guidelines for drowning and near-drowning response; and signage and posted information at beaches.
“The guarantee of having safe areas allows us to strengthen the country’s image and promote the Costa Rican tourism industry through prevention, attention and risk mitigation,” said Marvin Rodríguez, Second Vice President of Costa Rica, who signed the law.
Casa Presidencial did not provide further information identifying which beaches will be staffed or when more lifeguards could be hired, though it said the commission will identify the country’s busiest and most dangerous beaches.
The news follows our report from April 2019 that Costa Rica is investing $1.5 million through 2022 to improve tourist safety on popular beaches.
In 2018, 129 people drowned in Costa Rica, according to Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). Of those, 54 drowned in a river and 51 in the ocean. Nearly half of the total deaths occurred in Puntarenas province, which contains the popular beach destinations of Jacó, Manuel Antonio and Santa Teresa, among many others.
A Hispanoamérican University study that says 2,981 people lost their lives in the ocean, river, pond or a pool in Costa Rica between 1990 and 2014, an average of 124 people annually.
“With the implementation of this low, the government … seeks to prevent drowning deaths — an action that will save lives and help to strengthen, even more, the image of the country and the Costa Rican tourism industry,” said Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister, María Amalia Revelo.