Kids lost at the beach: have a plan before you hit the sand

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Kids are known to wander, and if they aren't paying close attention, they can find themselves lost in no time.

"It happens quite often but we always find them. our track record is excellent," South Walton Fire District Beach Safety Director David Vaughan said.

With 26 miles of beach, there were more than 320 reports of lost kids on South Walton beaches since March of last year.

"In the first 5 days, we've already had 22, 13 in one day and we only had two yesterday. But it's really common," Vaughan stated.

That's why beachgoers like Jeannine Jones and her husband have a plan before they hit the sand.

First, Jones said they dress her grandkids in bright clothing so they can be easily spotted. Next, they pick out a landmark for the kids to look for just in case they do become disoriented.

"We never go further than you can see me so if we follow those rules, they don't wander and we're pretty strict about that just because it's a big place and yes everything does start to look alike, even for adults," Jones said.

Beach officials say it's always a good idea to let kids know what they should do should they become lost.

"First I would walk around and see if I could find them and then second I would ask somebody for help. Like a lifeguard or somebody to help me find my grandma," Jones grandson, Nahmere explained.

"We want parents to understand it's not necessarily a lack of vigilance. Kids are kids, they are very wilily and once they get an agenda on their mind, even the most vigilant parent can lose track of a child, especially when you have high density on the beach," Vaughan said.

Beach officials said typically kids like the wind and sun to their backs and suggest always taking a picture of your kid that day to help search efforts if they do wander away.

"We want people to understand the beach is a busy place. Take a moment to think about things before you get started and relaxing. We understand that people get into vacation mode but taking a few moments to understand where you're at, getting organized with your thinking about how to handle an unfortunate situation and just taking that extra little step know where you're at and what to do can make a big difference from a really good day turning into a bad day," Vaughan added.