Beach safety officials stress importance of the flag system as the summer season ends

Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY BEACH Fla. (WMBB) — Labor Day marks the end of the local tourist season. It also means the end of a full-staff of lifeguards watching over swimmers and warning about rip-currents.

Beginning Tuesday, there will be four-year ’round lifeguards on the beach.

While Bay County saw a normal amount of water calls this holiday weekend, Okaloosa had two drownings in the last week. One was a 14-year-old boy in double red flag conditions. 

Panama City Beach firefighter and lifeguard Daryl Paul said even in the summer months the number of people on the beach out-numbers the amount of lifeguards.

“When the season kind of tapers off and the call volumes drop our seasonals take a break for a couple months and we rely on our year-round staff to continue patrols,” Paul said. 

Louisiana man dies after getting caught in rip current

Paul said they only have four year round guards. They patrol as much sand as they can, but he said people need to be responsible for their own safety and pay attention to the flag system. 

“We fly those flags, we take those flags seriously, we take them seriously, we gauge the water conditions every morning and that is our first line of communication with the public,” Paul said.

He said every visitor should make sure to learn. 

Visitors like Bryan Fernandez said he somewhat knows what the flag system means, but he thinks some visitors choose to ignore the signs. 

“For the most part yeah like I know red means stay out of the water and stuff but not all of them I don’t,” Fernandez said.

Paul said if yellow red or double red flags are flying swimmers should be on the look out for rip currents.  He said those are often found in the calmest parts of the water. 

“I see a deep dip just before that sandbar on both sides so you call that a feeder,” Paul said. “So anywhere I see a deep dip before a shallow sandbar I’m always suspicious of a rip current being present because the water coming across this sandbar has got to feed somewhere.” 

He said the water can also be a different color if there is a rip current.

Paul said they fly beach flags every day of the year no matter if it is August or December. 

For those who still don’t know the system it is posted at almost every beach access like this one and also around local businesses. 

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