PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fl. (WJHG/WECP) It's illegal to go into the Gulf of Mexico when double red flags are flying, yet some still choose to ignore the flag system, resulting in several injuries and deaths during water rescues this summer.
When double red flags are flying, the Gulf of Mexico's waters are closed to swimmers. (WJHG/WECP)
Now, both Panama City Beach officials and locals hope this new law will help save lives.
"We're going to enforce this rule. It's the only way to make people to understand how important it is," Panama City Beach Mayor Mike Thomas said.
Under the new ordinance, firefighters and police officers will now be able to hand out fines to people who don't heed double red flag warnings.
"Now that we have it for the entire 21 miles we have of beach line, it's gonna be seamless transition for both the police and the sheriff's department," said Panama City Beach Councilman Geoff McConnell. "It also gives us an added ability for our fire department to give out civil penalties."
City officials say violators will be warned after their first offense. Howeever, a person can be fined between $250 and $500 for their second offense. On the third offense, they can be fined $500 by a firefighter or arrested by a police officer if they still refuse to get out of the water.
Alisha Redmon's husband Stacey died rescuing a woman and her son who disobeyed the double red warning. Like many, she's happy the ordinance passed.
"I was excited. I was relieved. I was like 'yes finally.' Yes, we're in the right direction it's only a start though," said Redmon.
Redmon believes the city should also make more flotation devices available on the beach so rescuers can use them to save people caught in rip currents.
The city council will have a beach safety workshop with Bay County officials next Tuesday to talk about adding flotation devices and other safety measures to the beach. The city hasn't determined yet when the new law will go into effect.
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