PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Going into the Gulf of Mexico during double red flag conditions will now cost you.
A unanimous decision by the Panama City beach City Council Thursday night to pass a Beach Safety Ordinance brings consequences to people who don’t follow the rules.
Panama City Beach Mayor, Mike Thomas said, “It makes people aware. People need consequences and they’re endangering somebody else’s life by doing this and it’s just not fair.”
The ordinance gives both the Police and Fire departments authority to enforce the closed water rule.
“We’re all excited about that. It’s been a long time coming. Anything to help. The tourists coming in here, just for safety and it’s not just for tourists. It’ll help our locals here,” City Councilman, Phil Chester said.
It also adds more awareness throughout the businesses along the beach as they will be required to increase the closed water and flag system signage.
The new ordinance will operate practically identical to Bay County’s ordinance.
City Councilman Geoff McConnell said, ” Now that we have it for the entire 21 miles that we have of beach line, it’s going to be a nice seamless transition for both the police department and the sheriff’s office and it also gives us an added ability for the fire department to give civil penalties.”
If a member of fire rescue enforces the law, after a warning, the second offense will result in a $250 dollar fine and the third is $500 dollars.
While it exempt surfers, Councilman Paul Casto says he is still pushing for a flotation device to be made available.
“We’re hoping to add two of the type 4 Coast Guard approved flotation devices that will be stationed at each commercial hut down on the white sandy beach,” Casto said.
Alisha Redmon, who lost her husband in a drowning while he was trying to save others, says she too wants the addition of the resources.
“I’m not a strong swimmer. I need that. I need that security. You told me not to do a human chain because you’re only as strong as your weakest link, then give me something to work with,” Redmon said.
Casto said, “It’s been proven that people are going to go into the water to try and rescue people so the more flotation devices we have readily available on the beach, the more chances we will have of helping people.”
The council agreed to discuss this topic more and possibly amend the ordinance at a later date.
The police and fire department can now start to fine and arrest people who disregard the rules during double red flags.
The businesses, however, will have until next season before the ordinance effects them.
The PCB City Council is also hosting a Beach Safety Public Workshop on Tuesday, August 13 at 1:00 p.m. inside the Lyndell Conference Center. The Bay County Commission and TDC are also apart of the event.