Quickest way to get help: know your location on the beach

Calling for help during emergency on the beach can be extremely stressful, especially if you're not quite sure *where you are.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - With millions of people expected to set foot on south Walton County beaches this summer, beach safety officials are emphasizing simple steps you can take to help prepare in case of an emergency.

South Walton Fire District Beach Safety Director David Vaughan told NewsChannel 7 one of the most common challenges their first responders face when responding to emergencies on the beach is finding those who are in need of the help.

“When it comes to water rescues and drowning resuscitation, seconds count,” Vaughan said. ”I would say anywhere between a third and a half of the calls provide us significant challenges and just getting people to get us a good starting spot.”

Vaughan said the simplest step you can do is to take a moment and check, and take a picture of, the beach access sign as soon as you get to there.

“Look at the signs that are around you. Look at the addressing,” Vaughan said. “I know that when people get here, you get sign blindness, you know, you’re inundated with all these advisories and signs. And most people just get their blinders on, they want to find the best spot on the beach, they want to get set up, and they want to start relaxing.”

Another important precaution beachgoers can take is to set up and swim near a lifeguard station. However, the stations are sporadically placed along the beach.

“We have 15 lifeguard towers, but we cover 26 miles,” Vaughan said. “If you can’t swim near a lifeguard, we may sometimes be more than a mile away. And so, if you get into an emergency situation, again, that location is crucial, so we get there as quickly as possible.”

Beach safety staff emphasized that time is of the essence in the case of many beach emergencies, so taking a few simple precautions when you hit the sand can help save a life.

Vaughan also says a common call they get is lost children who have wandered off, so he recommends taking a picture of any kids with you as soon as you get to the beach. One tip Vaughan had: children like to walk with the sun out of their eyes, and the wind at their back.

To learn more about beach safety regulations and recommendations, as well as to check lifeguard station locations, click here.