L.A. County lifeguards use Ford Escape Hybrids

For the past year the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service, a division of the fire department, has used a fleet of 2009 Ford Escape Hybrids to help save lives while reducing fuel consumption and protecting the environment. During the first 11 months of service, Escape Hybrids have played a crucial part in thousands of rescues and more than a million rescue preventions at L.A. County beaches.

More than 58 million people visit Los Angeles’ sandy beaches every year, and the number is going up. Public safety is the primary concern of Los Angeles County lifeguards, who use a fleet of 45 customized Escape Hybrids to patrol 72 miles of coastline.

After nearly a year of beach patrol, L.A. County lifeguards and officials say the Escape Hybrids have been valuable tools in efforts ranging from saving injured surfers to moving swimmers out of rip currents to reuniting lost children with their parents.

Escape Hybrids have become critical tools for the lifeguards stationed in Malibu, for example. Last October, they used three Escape Hybrids and an F-350 in the rescue of two men involved in a single-engine plane crash near the Malibu Pier. In January 2009, lifeguards used an Escape Hybrid to tow a wave runner into position to launch a rescue of a capsized kayaker who was at risk of hypothermia. Two months later, lifeguards patrolling in an Escape Hybrid were in the right place at the right time to rescue a surfer who had been knocked unconscious in the water and was in danger of drowning.

The customized Escape Hybrids enable L.A.’s lifeguards to efficiently stow rescue gear and protect it from the elements, said Fernando Boiteux, the department’s northern section chief. Based on input from the lifeguards, Ford designers removed 60 percent of the rear seat on the driver’s side and replaced it with a rescue equipment storage unit – an aluminum box with specially designated spaces for important emergency equipment, such as defibrillators, trauma boxes and oxygen tanks. The remaining 40 percent of the seat was left intact in case the lifeguards had to transport someone, such as a lost child.


Ford designers also outfitted the Escape Hybrids with a custom-fit roof rack for the lifeguards’ paddle board and spine boards. The vehicles were painted a vibrant yellow – iconic for lifeguards – and then detailed with authoritative graphics and finished off with dark wheels.

The lifeguards said their Escape Hybrids offer excellent visibility, a significant safety plus on the beach, and that the four-wheel drive feature enables them to navigate the sandy terrain without getting stuck and make more precise turns.

In addition to saving lives, the Escape Hybrid fleet enabled L.A. lifeguards to reduce their entire fleet’s fuel usage by 25 percent – more than 5,000 gallons of gas – during the first six months of service despite increased driving due to 20 percent higher beach attendance than the previous year. The fuel cost savings has helped L.A. County to maintain its critical front line staffing despite the economic downturn.

The lifeguards use four-wheel-drive Escape Hybrids, which deliver outstanding fuel economy of 29 mpg city and 27 mpg highway; also available is the front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid – the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet – which is delivers 34 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. The lifeguards also use six F-350s and two F-250s along with other specialized vehicles.

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