Beach patrol vehicle more than bright paint and flashing lights
Imagine if your company vehicle included three radios, six sirens, a bumblebee yellow paint job, and a surfboard strapped to the top. Did I mention your truck comes with a hood scoop as well?
Sitting inside a Galveston Island Beach Patrol vehicle is an experience.
“I have the coolest part-time job in the world,” said Brandon Venegas, a six-year veteran of patrolling the Galveston beaches.
A full-time firefighter in Texas City, Venegas is exactly who you want on your side when danger strikes along the beach.
Opening a large metal box in the truck bed, Venegas removes several bright orange canvas bags containing a variety of lifesaving equipment identified by mysterious acronyms.
Sensing my confusion, he slows down and explains in more detail.
“This is one to help adults breathe, this one for small children,” he said.
As he continues to show me the vehicle, I begin to realize his job is not about telling kids to knock off the horseplay, but rather saving lives at a moment’s notice.
I ask about the most common calls.
“Rip currents,” he said. “People don’t know they are in trouble until they are.”
He points to a white buoy with a concrete anchor leaning against the bed liner.
“That’s a marker we drop as a ‘last seen’ spot when we’re involved in a drowning,” he said.
Reaching up beneath the black and white surfboard, he pulls down a small plank used to treat neck or spinal injuries.
Everything on this truck is designed for business — the business of saving lives.
Venegas invites me behind the wheel of this remarkable vehicle. Inside, multiple radios allow first responders to communicate with both local EMS and the U.S. Coast Guard. Toggles stand ready to release a wave of lights and sirens. Dozens of buttons populate the cockpit. The only item I feel I can successfully operate is the air conditioning.
We hit the sand. The truck, this one a 2013 Toyota Tacoma, is outfitted with four-wheel drive. The bright yellow paint does its job of attracting attention wherever it goes. People wave and freely approach with questions. In turn, Venegas politely listens and provides directions to their destinations.
It occurs to me that he, along with the others on his team, wear multiple hats — one as public relations liaisons and another as highly trained first responders.
We drive along in the sand; the truck is sure-footed and offers plenty of torque. With oversized tires and multiple transmission settings, I can see why Venegas claims he’s never found himself stuck on the beaches.
As we return to our starting point I realize what makes the beach patrol vehicles special is not the bright yellow paint job, hood scoop or surf board strapped to the top. The most impressive item is the highly trained individuals sitting behind the wheel making sure everyone enjoys a safe beach experience.