Bay County TDC puts $3 million into public safety

Published: May. 27, 2022 at 2:54 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Things are picking back up on the sandy beaches, as more people are making their way into town for Memorial Day weekend. But a bigger crowd also means a higher chance of emergencies.

It takes a lot more than a couple of lifeguards to watch over dozens of miles of beaches. Keeping everyone safe takes teamwork.

“To help keep tourists, and residents safe if they’re in the Gulf of Mexico or overtime when the beach is crowded,” Dan Rowe, the President and CEO of Visit Panama City Beach, said. “We have been working with the fire departments, with the Sheriff’s Office, you know with Beach Police.”

The Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) has been making safety its top priority for years. In 2021, officials agreed to put more than $2 million towards doing what it takes to keep beachgoers out of danger. And with so many people visiting Panama City Beach, that number only went up.

“We have an additional $1 million from collections from last year that we’re able to move forward into this year,” Rowe said.

A large chunk of the money goes towards having more eyes on the sandy beaches. The TDC helps fund a lifeguarding program for both the city and the county. It’s something tourism officials said is a lifesaver for more than just visitors.

“It’s really designed you know the lower the impact on local residents because with the Tourist Development Tax paying for the lifeguard services that we provide, you know it’s not being paid by any local,” Rowe said. “But those first responders are out on the beach in case one of our local residents gets into distress.”

The TDC is taking things a step further by purchasing top-of-the-line equipment.

“Buying some high-tech cameras that are really able to you know seek people who are in the water, you know to help the emergency responders to respond quicker,” Rowe said.

Don’t forget to check the flags while you’re out at the beaches. Double red flags mean you can stay on the sand, but stay out of the water.

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