Walton and Bay counties working together to reduce beach drownings

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - So far, ten deaths have occurred off the shores of Bay and Walton counties this year, according to the National Weather Service. Now emergency response leaders are working to lower that number in the future.

Monday, Bay and Walton County leaders gathered to discuss ways of lowering the number of drownings on their beaches. (WJHG/WECP)

Bay and Walton County leaders gathered at the Bay County Emergency Operations Center on Monday for a beach safety workshop. Topics included targeted messaging, education, and new technological resources.

Sergeant Mike Morris of the Bay County Sheriff's Office said, "We're all working as hard as we can to come up with a better solution to rip currents and educating the public on the dangers of getting in the water on double red flag days."

Despite new rules put into place, some say people are their own worst enemy.

"Basically making sure that folks understand what the beach flag system means for one thing. There's discussions about perhaps changing the color of the flag system--the green flag isn't flown very often for safety reasons, things like that. Helping folks understand how to get themselves out from a rip current if they're in one," said Mark Wool, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with NOAA.

One educational strategy discussed was negative messaging PSAs.

David Vaughan, Beach Safety Director for the South Walton Fire District, said, "When I say negative messaging--just showing them what a professional rescuer has trouble getting out of a rip and just kind of really making it that instantaneous visceral video understanding of 'Oh!' where they have that aha moment that 'Oh, oh, oh, OK'."

Even if common sense can't be enforced, these leaders are hopeful things can change.

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