He's been dubbed "Dr. Lifeguard" because of his work focused on preventing accidental drowning deaths. Dr. John Fletemeyer is in Panama City Beach this week listening to tourists and their perception of the Gulf waters.
"The most significant finding is people know very little about beach hazards and when we do survey them they talk about shark attacks and whirlpools, and for example, whirlpools don't even exist in the ocean. They list these things as hazards."
Dr. Fletemeyer and his associate plan to interview 500 tourists along the beaches in just one day. It's apparent the knowledge varies.
Shandra Cowen is visiting from Indiana and has a group young girls in town.
"I don't know anything about it. I have three little girls here, we're here having a vacation together and I'm interested because they don't want to leave the beach."
Lunda Schwartz is visiting from Maryland and has only seen blue flags flying, but she says she won't take a chance when the flags change
"If it's rip tide, then we go to the pool."
Susie Smith, also visiting from Indiana, had no idea what a rip tide was or what the red flag meant. She didn't even know there was a flag system in place.
Dr. Fletemeyer says placing lifeguards along the 17 miles of beach is just too expensive, but he plans to identify the most heavily used areas of the beach.
"It's possible, however, to put station lifeguards in certain areas where there is a lot of people and then put out information about where to go if people want the benefit of having lifeguards."
He says it's best to remember why you target tourists for beach safety because they are the ones who keep drowning off the world's most beautiful beaches.