Beach tents

Letter | There is a better way to solve ‘problem’ of beach tents

March 13, 2014 

Beach Safety

CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

In response to your editorial, “Safety Trumps Tents on Beach,” in your Feb. 23 edition, I was left wondering why. Why couldn’t tents and safety be in a symbiotic rather than in a competitive, win/lose relationship? Why should it be either/or?

It is possible for an organization or a municipality to be safe AND customer-focused. Safety, particularly physical safety, has always been a value of all our cherished organizations: schools, churches, the military and organizational workplaces. The other values enable organizational team members, teams, and leaders to develop and deliver products and services that are reliable, consistent, timely and that satisfy the needs and wants of contemporary consumers.

Ideally, when a group is making a decision about an issue like beach tents, there is a four-function process that should be used: first, do fact-finding; second, consider ideas/possibilities to resolve the issue; third, apply objectivity, principles and logic to arrive at decisions that pertain to “things”; and fourth, apply values, empathy and fairness to the decision-making equation when decisions impact people. It is very likely that only two of these four functions were used when arriving at the beach-tent decision by the municipalities.

The Grand Strand Alliance municipalities effectively manage their respective organizations and their day-to-day business operation, yet have been at a loss on resolving this “tent issue” effectively. That’s because the tent issue is a complex situation for which there is no app, no technical solution and no standard operating procedure. It can’t be managed. And the impact of the decision on people and their happiness, comfort and convenience are really at stake.

Since it is a complex issue and an adaptive process, the people nearest the front line needed to be the ones who wrestled with and developed a solution. A committee would have consisted of high-performing, experienced team members from the operating departments in each city, team members from external suppliers of services to beaches (to each city), and representatives from large hoteliers whose guests use many tents each week. These individuals would also be people who have regularly sought out better ways to improve processes in their own organizations. They are “idea people” in addition to being exemplary in carrying out their current roles and responsibilities.

The goal of this tent-improvement committee would be to determine how tents could be used on the beaches more effectively than they are currently. They would generate, evaluate, select and recommend creative approaches that would address concerns cited by the management of their municipalities.

At some point before formulating final recommendations, the committee would invite a small group of citizens in to react to current findings and recommendations. The input of this group would be identified, evaluated and worked into a more fully developed recommendation. This approach would reflect the inputs and interests of all those impacted by the decision.

Your editorial reported that the tents posed access problems for emergency assistance. Did the municipalities solicit and discuss any ideas from front line team members or their team leaders that might have addressed this claim? If emergency personnel need immediate access to the beach front, why couldn’t “aisles” be designated and marked every 75 or 100 yards, for example? Also, why couldn’t tent sizes be limited to 10 feet? After citing that tents pose access problems for emergency assistance , your editorial pointed out, “potential liability problems.” This assertion does not convince this reader that the municipalities have done their very best thinking to address the issue. If anything, the “potential liability” implication is a fear-based approach to create acceptance of an edict that seems to be too extreme for the circumstances.

What is wrong with an end-in-mind goal of beach-loving visitors who come and thoroughly enjoy their time at the beach and on the beach ... with their tents and with their children, parents and grandparents?

In your editorial, you quoted Mr. John Rhodes, alliance chairman and Myrtle Beach mayor, as saying, “If we do it (ban tents) all together, then I think the reception will be there because of the safety issue.”

It would seem that rip tides, shark reports, jelly fish, quickly changing weather conditions, and the like pose legitimate public safety concerns for folks enjoying the beach. Teamwork among the media, beach personnel/lifeguards, and responsible beach goers help maintain a safe environment for all. Formal legislation by municipalities is not needed. Sorry, I don’t buy the “public safety” reason for banning tents.

Tents are obviously an administrative headache and expense for the municipalities, but the people who vacation with families here LOVE this place. Aren’t we treating them a bit rudely by taking away an amenity that keeps them more comfortable and safe (from harmful sun rays)?

Finally, I do not own a tent. I do go to the beach and enjoy it. More than anything else, I just like to see all people treated with respect and fairness: vacationers, students/teachers, frontline employees and their team leaders! A no-tent policy simply is not vacationer/customer friendly. Traditionalist, rule/procedure/things-oriented management teams can do better!

The writer lives in Little River.

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