Rescuing the Beach

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Bay County and Panama City Beach officials held a summit Tuesday to try and break the deadly cycle during rough seas. All it takes is one drowning because of a rip current to teach a lesson to one person. It's those who continue to get in the water that create a problem.

County Commissioner Cornel Brock organized the meeting Tuesday wanting decisions to be made within the next couple of months.

"And what we did today was basically frame the issues. We took an inventory of what people are doing, well they're communicating with each other and it's pretty impressive when you think of all the activities that are being done to make our beaches safer," says Brock.

Several mentioned the availability of lifeguards already employed by beach vendors selling anything from chairs to wave runners.

Lt. Mike Purvis with the Bay County Sheriff's Office is one of the rescuers who enter the water hoping to bring someone in alive. He says the beach vendors provide an invaluable service.

"They're assisting us and they have made quite a few rescues on their own that we may never hear about, so they are definitely playing a role in this and it's a very important role."

But several beach vendors say their main job is to rent equipment, not maintain beach safety. They also point out that when the weather is rough they pack up.

Dave Humphreys with the Panama City Beach Police Department says they aren't all certified lifeguards.

"They don't have to be lifeguards, but their people that are engaged in the work down there have to have lifeguard training," says Dave.

Julie Hilton with Hilton Enterprises employs a lifeguard in addition to the vendors on their property's beach.

"We had made a decision to have an extra aquatics team member that's trained in water safety to specifically watch the beach," Julie says.

Within the next couple of weeks recommendations will be heard and implemented, but it will still come down to who listens.