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Panama City Beach lifeguards asking local businesses for help

One Panama City Beach lifeguard looks out at the gulf Thursday morning. On average, there are...
One Panama City Beach lifeguard looks out at the gulf Thursday morning. On average, there are ten lifeguards patrolling the city's nine miles of beaches on any given day. (WJHG/WECP)(WJHG)
Published: Jun. 12, 2020 at 5:45 PM CDT
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Gulf waters were a much different scene on Friday compared to last weekend’s dangerous conditions.

“You know trying to tell people ‘please stay out of the water, please stay safe’, and sometimes people just don’t listen to that and it puts us at risk but we’re always willing to get out there and make a rescue if we have to,” said Panama City Beach lifeguard, Spence Jordan.

With an average of ten lifeguards on duty daily they say they’re stretched thin. To put things in perspective, there were 33 water rescues Thursday alone.

“We had full staffing but still we had such a call volume coming in that it was hard to deal with,” said Jordan. That’s why Panama City Beach’s fire chief, Larry Couch, is hoping to create a private-public partnership. “The funding mechanism really isn’t there for the city. We need help from our business partners that truly make the money off of the beach,” said Couch.

There are only two lifeguard towers within the city limits, but first responders hope that a private-public partnership will change that.

Couch said, “the first year with the capital expenses of the tower, and equipment, and everything, totals around $165,000 for the first year.” Businesses would sign a three-year contract. The subsequent two years would cost less- just enough to cover lifeguards’ salaries and maintenance fees.

"We would provide the lifeguards, all the training, all the medical equipment,” said Couch.

Each business would then have a lifeguard stand in front of their property assigned to three lifeguards- and while more money means more resources for the program, it also means more safety for the visitors.

“The worst thing that you can do is come on vacation and go to leave and somebody is not with you,” said Couch. He said now lifeguards will be trained by the police department on how to issue citations to those who disobey the flag warning system.

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