CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
New beach signs mark each public access point with a number. This sign is on the public beach access next to Kalama Beach Club along Kalaheo Avenue in Kailua.
Beach signs guide rescue crews
The city is nearly finished installing a beach safety project that uses locator signs to help callers direct emergency responders to their location.
As part of the multiagency city project, the county's beach rights of way, or public access points to the ocean, have been designated an "emergency response location."
Those sites are identified with yellow signs displaying a number and letter that signifies the caller's precise location. The code on the sign correlates to points recorded on a Global Positioning System.
When someone needs help, a caller can read the sign to a dispatcher, helping emergency crews know exactly where to respond.
"The sooner we can locate you, the sooner we can assist you," said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department. "This goes a long way in helping us do that."
Signs are located on the beach side of the rights of way and on the roadside.
"It creates a systematic way for people to let the dispatcher know where they are," Cheplic said. "A lot of times, people can't tell us where they are."
The two-year project is about 98 percent complete, with some beach access points on the North Shore and Leeward Oahu still without signs. In three weeks the city plans to finish posting the signs at all 86 of its rights of way. The signs are not on private rights of way.
The Emergency Services Department's Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division spearheaded the project, and the Department of Planning and Permitting helped establish the GPS locations of the signs. The Department of Parks and Recreation is installing and maintaining the signs.
Cheplic said the signs have already been used by emergency responders.
He declined to say how much the project cost.
Ellchris Castro, an Ewa Beach resident, lives within walking distance from a public right of way. She did not notice an emergency sign there yesterday, but said, "That'd be really good."
"There are a lot of tourists. If something happens, it would be a good idea," she said.
One Kailua resident, however, questioned the sign's prominence. Rich Figel, a Kainui Drive resident, said the sign at an access point off North Kalaheo Avenue near Kailuana Loop is hidden by foliage.
"You lose sight of that sign within less than 10 yards away at the end of that right of way," he said. "There's a dune in front of it, and there's a lot of foliage blocking it. If you're anywhere near the ocean and you turn around, you wouldn't even know there's a public access there."