VIEWPOINTS: Educate tourists on signs

Comments 6 | Recommend 0

August 03, 2008 08:00:00 AM

The writer lives in Panama City Beach.
By Pat Shockley
In response to "Current wisdom" (editorial, Aug. 1): As I sit on my condo balcony each day watching the swimmers desperately trying to exit the water, then hearing the sirens of rescue personnel, and seeing strangers pulling those people to shore as rescuers run to them, I have to agree that there are some people who came here to swim in the gulf and they are going to do just that or die trying.
I have seen people told to get out of the water by the Panama City Beach Patrol immediately go back in when the officer leaves. There is no excuse for that and a lifeguard or a flag is not going to stop them. Those people have made a choice to ignore warnings and risk their lives and the lives of their children.
However, as a resident who was once a frequent visitor, I am certain that a great many tourists are unaware of the flag system. Yes, I said unaware. I have heard people say, "What flags?" I do not believe we have done all we can do to educate the public on the dangers of swimming in the gulf. It needs to be done daily, as there are different people here daily. Flags are one way to communicate the danger, but they are not working.
When it comes to saving lives, I believe we should concentrate more on the people who don't realize the danger of going into the water, rather than becoming angry with the people who disregard warnings.
To get the message across more, maybe we could step up our efforts. Some ideas are: Have condo security or chair-rental employees place signs like those real restate agents use at the exact points where people enter the beach area from condos, motels or public beach access points. Put the message in their face. Use large red letters for signs stating "Extreme Danger - Stay Out Of The Water!" Put the warning in their face in plain, no nonsense language.
Ask condo and motel personnel to help by placing signs inside the doors leading to the beach. Place more flagpoles and flags on the beach and put them in places where they are noticed. Put them on top of beach chair rental huts. Hire people to patrol the water on jet skis. Jet ski operators are already rescuing distressed swimmers. Let them do it before the swimmers become distressed. Use the planes pulling the "All You Can Eat Crab Legs," etc., signs to pull the same signs mentioned above. People read those things.
More people are going to die. Some made the choice to risk it, but some don't even realize they are in danger. Let's do every possible thing we can do to help the ones we can help.