Flotation devices on the way to beach vendors
Panama City Beach city officials recently passed an ordinance saying all beach vendors on the white, sandy beaches must have two throwable type IV U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices on hand at all times.
While officials say they should be used as a last resort in a water emergency, there's a bigger message for beachgoers.
"The intent of these flotation devices isn't for someone to go and put one on and go swimming. The intent is for people to follow the red flag system and not go swimming when there's double red flags," City Manager Mario Gisbert said.
Beach officials say the beach vendors, like chair or jet-ski rental huts, will have to provide their own flotation devices.
Gisbert said, "They're not an expensive item. If you're buying them in bulk, they're probably less than ten dollars apiece. If you're buying them one at a time you might pay 20 or 30 dollars apiece.
Officials say they'll check on the devices through the annual beach services permitting process as well as have Beach and Surf patrols checking daily, but vendors will still be responsible for taking care of their own equipment.
"You can't set these things out in the sun day in, day out, year after year and expect them to function," said Gisbert. "They need to inspect their own equipment to make sure it's going to provide its intended use."
Anyone who does go into the water to attempt to rescue a swimmer during double-red flags will not be punished for entering the water.
"If somebody goes in to help save someone, the last thing we're going to do is chastise someone," said Gisbert.
Beachside vendors can also sell or rent flotation devices under the new ordinance, but it is not required.
We reached out to beach vendors but have not heard back.
The ordinance will take effect on March 1.