PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Going to the beach will hopefully be safer as local fire officials and Beach Rescue personnel began learning lifeguard jet ski training from one of the best trainers in the business.
Glen Kuehner changed the game for the United States Lifesaving Association serving as the Southeastern Region’s Academy Coordinator.
“I always want to help people and I always want to kind of make things better when I’m finished with them and I’ve been doing these programs for 18 years now,” Kuehner said.
His passion for the job stems from a 2004 mishap in South Walton.
“Before the beach agencies had true lifeguards, professional lifeguards on the beach we had a near-miss and we tried to utilize a jet ski for surf rescue,” Kuehner said. “We made a lot of mistakes and from that, I decided to take those mistakes and learn from them and I knew we could do it right but we were not doing it right.”
Kuehner has trained with lifesaving leaders across the world and is bringing that knowledge back to Panama City Beach.
“He’s the guy you want to lead the class,” Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Beach Safety Director Wil Spivey said.
Kuehner taught Bay County Fire and EMS, Panama City Beach Fire and Beach Safety crews. The goal was to get their USLA Personal Watercraft Rescue Operator certification.
William Jordan, a Bay County Fire Rescue EMT, has trained an estimated 100 hours before taking this 40-hour course.
“Just so we can do more for our citizens down at the county zone, work further with our counterparts here in the city, and just make the beach a safer place as a whole,” Jordan said.
Wil Spivey has taken this course himself and said it’s not easy.
“There’s swim standards, run standards, they have to perform all sorts of different rescues with all the equipment we use, spend some time in the guard tower, in the trucks, roving around learning the beach,” Spivey said. “A lot goes into this to provide the level of service that we provide.”
Luckily, they had Kuehner to help lead the way.
“I’m building these programs so that when I leave, it’s better for the citizens and the community,” Kuehner said.
At the end of the course, everyone in Kuehner’s program passed the course.