According to a recent press release issued by Panama City Beach on Tuesday afternoon, the city has set a record for having the highest number of beach fatalities in any single locale in the U.S. In 2023, as addressed by the recent string of drownings. This information is based on data from the National Weather Service database.
Beyond the boundaries of the city, on a beach in Bay County that is not officially part of any municipality, there was another incident of drowning characterized by double red flags, which involved a visitor to the area. One of these incidents took place when single red flags were displayed, while five incidents occurred when double red flags were present. In total, six tourists lost their lives after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico near the shores of Panama City Beach between June 15-24.
As the public risked their own lives, the enforcement code and the Department of Police Beach City Panama, along with the members of the Safety Beach division of Rescue Fire Beach, have been working tirelessly to protect the public across the nine miles of city beaches.
Only surfers attached to a surfboard are permitted to access the Gulf during double red flags, indicating that the Gulf is off-limits for swimmers and violators will be fined $500, except for one particular situation when double red flags are displayed. Tragically, all individuals who lost their lives were unable to overcome the powerful rip currents.
Throughout that duration, perilous rip currents have been present along the shoreline. Crimson or dual crimson flags have been hoisted daily in PCB since June 12, as per daily text notifications from ALERTBAY, a regional emergency alert system.
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The release notes that deaths occurred in the local area during a hazardous period. Nearly 100 individuals were mentioned for swimming in the red zone. In addition, over 140 people were rescued by beach safety crews. Lifeguards also took preemptive measures, performing 116 preventative actions to prevent people from putting themselves in a position where they might need rescuing.
Multiple beachgoers who are upset by being disrespected in the place where rules are meant to keep them safe, have also caused distress to first responders and multiple lifeguards. Some lifeguards have also been injured during water rescues, and water inhalation has been treated. Officials from PCB have also made this statement.
The statement states, “On the eastern coast of the city, the inclusion of extra lifeguards has led to one landowner collaborating with the city for a duration of two years. By means of a collaboration between the public and private sectors, the city has been offering lifeguards from the city to properties located along the beach since 2020.” The release mentions that annually, the city strives to enhance all aspects of its beach safety program in order to ensure the most secure experience for the 100,000 individuals who visit on a daily basis.
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The Council of Tourist Development, along with the City and County of Bay, urges everyone to pay attention to the system warning flags and learn from them. In addition, the city has increased the number of lifeguards, police personnel, and code enforcement staff to continuously improve safety measures on the beach.