BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County officials used their new ordinances Thursday to enforce dangerous surf conditions. Double red flags were flying most of the day.
Earlier this month county commissioners approved a new beach ordinance that requires vendors and rental properties to educate about the flag system.
On double red days, they must put up signs.
“The beach vendors on their own are putting out the double red flags that we built during the summer when we had when we started having the really bad riptide and they have got those flags flying today,” Bay County Commissioner Clair Pease said.
Educating beach go-ers is key to saving lives.
“Public education and increasing awareness is a huge part of our job down here with surf rescue and if we don’t do that, we’re not doing our job so making sure that everybody’s aware of the dangers, that’s it’s just paramount because that keeps people coming back to Panama City Beach,” Bay County Emergency Services Firefighter EMT William Jordan said.
News 13 had the chance to ride along the east end of the beach. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office, fire and rescue, and code enforcement drove as a unit, looking for people who were not following the rules. Code enforcement can write citations.
“Their big job when they’re down here with us is to free up our responding units so instead of our guys having to take the time to stop and tell people about our beach ordinances and having to write those citations, we can respond to emergencies, medical emergencies, water calls,” Jordan said.
In June, Bay County Emergency Services had its busiest week for rescues. On Thursday law enforcement only had to tell a handful of people to get out of the gulf.
“School started back today in numerous areas so the crowds are substantially smaller, however, we still have people on vacation, the surf is rather large today,” Bay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mike Morris said.
Several people stopped to take photos or read the new warning signs. Fines for violators are $500.