Brevard Ocean Rescue Chief Jeff Scabarozi Leads Lifesavers

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'Education, prevention Key to Safety and Life'

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Chief Jeff Scabarozi has lead the Brevard County Ocean Rescue efforts since 2008, and currently has 17 full-time ocean rescuers who help protect the multitude of bathing suit-clad visitors who flock annually to the beaches of the Space Coast. (BCFR image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Like any impressionable young child growing up on the Space Coast, Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Jeff Scabarozi dreamed of one day launching in a rocket toward outer space.

Since 2004, when Scabarozi began working with Brevard County Ocean Rescue, he’s more likely to encounter star fish than those of a galactic nature.

But that hasn’t derailed his pursuit. Scabarozi, who at age 24 became chief of Ocean Rescue in 2008, continues to shoot for the stars both on professional and personal levels.

As a child, “I wanted to be an astronaut,” said Scabarozi, who’s from a family of engineers.

“My dad works at the Space Center. Any rocket or shuttle that went up shook the windows of the house.”

Scabarozi was born at Cape Canaveral Hospital and was raised on Merritt Island, graduating from Merritt Island High School in 2000.

In 2005, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Central Florida, and is about to graduate with a second bachelor’s degree, this one in mechanical engineering.

Scabarozi was taught how to swim at a very young age by his grandmother.

When he turned 16, his plans to spend the summer on the beach swimming and surfing were dashed when his father took Scabarozi “kicking and screaming,” Scabarozi said, to lifeguard tryouts.

But he liked it and ultimately turned his lifelong passion into a career.

ABOVE VIDEO: Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Jeff Scabarozi narrates “Know before you go,” a public service announcement to inform residents and visitors to arrive at the beach ready for some fun, but also armed with knowledge on how to be safe. “You can have peace of mind knowing highly trained, professional lifeguards are keeping watch over the county swimming areas, says Scabarozi, our tireless work to constantly improve safety on Brevard’s beaches has earned us the honor of being named 2013 Beach Patrol of the Year in Florida. Be prepared and know before you go, especially when it comes to rip currents.”

SMITTEN BY LAURA

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The Scabarozis were married at Disney World in 2012. (Image courtesy of Weddings by Crystal)

In 2010, he met his wife, Laura, on the beach.

“She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and it was love at first sight,” he said.

“I walked up and gave her my business card and asked her out. I was lucky enough to get a call from her that night and we went to dinner and have been inseparable since.”

They were married at Disney World in 2012. Laura is studying at UCF to become a psychologist.

“We spend our evenings side by side doing school work,” he said.

“Education is key. You never want to stop learning. I tell my guys, ‘Don’t sell yourself short. Go get your education.’”

MOST SCENIC OFFICE VIEW IN BREVARD

From the vantage point atop a lifeguard tower at Lori Wilson Park, Scabarozi may possibly have the most scenic “office” view in the county. (BCFR image)

From the vantage point atop a lifeguard tower at Lori Wilson Park, Scabarozi may possibly have the most scenic “office” view in the county. (BCFR image)

From the vantage point atop a lifeguard tower at Lori Wilson Park, Scabarozi may possibly have the most scenic “office” view in the county.

It’s one of five lifeguard towers that are manned year-round by Ocean Rescue at various beachfront parks.

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Brevard County Commissioner Mary Bolin Lewis, far left, read a resolution before the board at the county commission meeting recognizing National Beach Safety Week and Rip Current Awareness Week. She then presented the resolution to Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Jeff Scabarozi and Assistant Chief Eisen Witcher. In 2014, Brevard County Ocean Rescue saved 517 people, 105 of those rescues made during the winter months with full-time lifeguards and was honored as Florida’s Beach Patrol of the Year. (BCFR Image)

On a recent cool morning, Scabarozi was here only to touch base with one of the 17 full-time ocean rescuers who help protect the multitude of bathing suit-clad visitors who flock annually to the beaches of Brevard County.

Between the end of March and the end of October – essentially from the start of Spring break to the start of cooler temperatures – the number of lifeguard towers jumps to 24 (5 year-round and 19 seasonal towers,) and seasonal lifeguards brought onboard to protect the masses boosts the number of additional ocean rescuers to 100.

“We work to be proactive lifeguards. We work to warn the public before they get into trouble,” he said. “A big thing is education. We look out for people who may not be accustomed to the beach environment, and the big thing is to inform them of the dangers of the day.”

The Brevard County Ocean Rescue Division provides for the safe swimming and beach protection to all Brevard County residents, visitors and tourists in designated areas of Brevard County.

The five areas protected full time have lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year.

The key to success for Brevard County Ocean Rescue is a focus on prevention, said Scabarozi, who spearheads Ocean Rescue and its $1.1 million budget not from a lifeguard tower but from a virtual tool shed-turned-makeshift office in a remote corner of the parking lot at Lori Wilson Park.

“We work to be proactive lifeguards. We work to warn the public before they get into trouble,” he said.

“A big thing is education. We look out for people who may not be accustomed to the beach environment, and the big thing is to inform them of the dangers of the day.”

Brevard Ocean Rescue Named Beach Patrol of the YearRelated Story:
Brevard Ocean Rescue Named Beach Patrol of the Year

Those dangers are evaluated by the individual Ocean Rescuers at the beginning of each day.

They physically get into the water to gauge ocean conditions. They then work to pass that knowledge onto the public.

According to USLA, there have been nearly 5,000 rescues on Brevard County beaches since 2007, with the majority of those a result of swimmers encountering rip currents.

There have been an estimated 500,000 preventative actions, which means Ocean Rescuers were able to ward off trouble before it happened.

Brevard County Ocean Rescue was named 2013 Beach Patrol of the Year by the Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association.

“We’ve made it pretty far in the course of six or seven years,” Scabarozi said.

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