Panama City Beach is Getting Lifeguards

by June 28, 2008 • 22 comments

Well, the Panama City Beach City Council decided that we need lifeguards, but they don’t know how they will pay for it yet.

Mike Hudson, a resident of Panama City Beach, started a beach rescue service – Bay Medical Center EMS Surf Rescue Unit. His team put together a lifeguard program proposal with was the topic of discussion Thursday’s meeting.

After discussion is was decided that they would push through an already approved budget item to hire lifeguards at the City Pier. They also decided that they will put pressure on Bay County for them to follow suit with similar lifeguard placement actions. As part of discussion it was decided that they would update the existing ordinances that require beach service vendors to be lifeguard trained and update equipment that may be more suitable for current lifeguard needs.

The new proposal was based on a proposal that Hudson put together a few years ago that served as the base structure of the Okaloosa lifeguard program. The estimated start up would be around $600,000 with an annual cost of $500,000. This would fund around 30 seasonal lifeguards and 10 evenly spaced lifeguard towers in addition to a “roving” lifeguard patrol to monitor beaches that are not close to the towers.

Three options for funding were discussed – funds from the CRA, TDC money, money from the City. All three had significant resistance from members of the council and audience. The issue will be in discussion at the July 24 meeting.

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1 Russ July 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

We knew this was coming, whether needed or not, with the steam rolling it was getting. If we really want to attract more visitors, we should hire more people to pick up all the trash in the beach versus lifeguards.

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2 John July 1, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Funding?
Add a few cents to the bed tax and let the “vistors” pay the tab. They need the services the most!

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3 leanna July 1, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Russ, people should pick up their own trash- tourist or not. Hey everyone, pick up your trash so we can spend the money saving lives instead.

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4 russ July 1, 2008 at 5:41 pm

I agree with leanna, but based upon my years of experience here that is not going to happen. People just don’t seem to care. We don’t walk barefoot on the beach anymore with all the glass, beer cans, bottle caps, underwear, etc strewn all over the beach. We live on the beach and do carry a bag with us to pick up trash as we walk but it is a losing battle.

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5 bonnie July 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm

To all the people who commented. My son died on Panama City Beach in 1995 because there were not any lifeguards that were trained to go into the surf to rescue people. His stayed about water for 30 minutes calling for help because he was being carried out by a rip current…..no one came to rescue him. The police and others in the Summit just stood and watched him drown. Please spend money on getting lifequards instead of other things. If you all don’t the tourist will not keep coming.
Bonnie Sandell Charlottesville, VA

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6 bonnie July 11, 2008 at 8:32 pm

To all the people who commented. My son died on Panama City Beach in 1995 because there were not lifeguards that were trained to go into the surf to rescue people. His stayed above water for 30 minutes calling for help because he was being carried out by a rip current…..no one came to rescue him. The police and others in the Summit just stood and watched him drown. Please spend money to get lifequards instead of other things. If you all don’t the tourist will not keep coming.
Bonnie Sandell Charlottesville, VA

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7 Darlene August 4, 2008 at 8:22 pm

We will not be back to Panama City Beach until there are lifeguards..my family & I were there when the 2 people drown July 30th 2008…it was terrible…& they left the victoms bodies on the beach for hrs.It was aweful…& everyone just stood around…I could not believe my eyes …we were on the balcony at our hotel…and the flag warning signs are confusing people were saying well yesterday one red flag & people were swimming now 2 and you cant…red flag should meean NO>>>STOP not one yes 2 no…if there would have been lifeguards those 2 people would still be here today….also there were kids in the water(where were their parents) we have to do something to protect…the world has grown cold hearted…money means more than a life….so sad

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8 Maureen August 5, 2008 at 7:20 am

Don’t see how the flags could be confusing people. Red means no swimming. That people ignore red flags and swim anyway is their problem. I mean really, their is taped evidence of a mother and her two small children playing in the rough surf as the result of an oncoming hurricane. Made national news. They lost their footings and recovered but it was a close call. Idiots abound. Maybe that’s how humans thin the herds.

Listen up, people spend time researching hotels and condos to rent, the best driving route, places to eat, etc., so you’d think they’d spend a bit of time researching the beach as well. You don’t just up and decide to go to PCB without knowing something about the place. Read the newspaper and listen to local news when you arrive. Just about every hotel and condo has a TV and newspaper stands are everywhere including the grocery stores (one of the first places visitors seem to hit). Stop blaming PCB for other’s stupidity or your own. Isn’t is about time folks started taking responsibility for their own actions or should we just bury that idea forever.

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9 Candice Dyer August 5, 2008 at 11:47 am

Tourists are here on vacation not to pay attention to colored flags. The lure of the water is strong and that’s why they come here. We as residents and those in power who want the tourism industry to grow …must act responsibly and hire lifeguards. Rip currents are a condition we are familiar with. Most people have never heard of rip currents. When I lived near Daytona, they had lifeguards and rip currents was not so much a problem, sharks was the problem. My suggestion is attach a banner to the ones already flying overheard telling people when to stay out of the water…be graphic as to the number of drownings we have here.

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10 bsandyi August 7, 2008 at 8:31 am

You all make me sad. Wait until you son or daughter dies by drowning and see if you think that PCB should pay for life guards that are surf certified. The condos, hotels, and city council can pay to save lives. Otherwise close this beach to tourist and not let anyone go into the water.

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11 Richard August 7, 2008 at 10:16 am

The vendors at the condos on the beach are responsible for keeping trash off their beaches by contract.Condo mgmt makes them do the job.In addition there is a contractor responsible for cleaning and grooming ALL the beaches– at $250,000 per year–this is pd by the TDC.Is there adequate oversight on this operation? I have seen the rakes operating but w/o the rake engaged to pick up debris-5th gear smoothing the sand and covering the debris.
Perhaps vendor contracts (lounges) at the piers and park for the public with clean-up responsibility would help at those busy areas with the rent helping pay for the lifegaurds.The county commissioners voted against vendors at the pier and park 2 years ago.The contract included clean up resposibility.

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12 sheila August 12, 2008 at 6:31 am

I agree with the person who said attach another flag stating just how many people have died in the last few years by ignoring a red flag. In big bold letters remind people that they are responsible for their children. In the excitement of getting to the beach many never even look for the flag, much less the color of the flag. We have to do more to bring it to their attention as they walk down the beach somehow. Bury big signs in the sand that are like the signs we see on the highways telling us we’re going too fast. Let me messages continuously repeat itself. Red flag, no swimming or you will be fined. XX number of people have died on this beach since xxx by ignoring the red flags.

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13 Bernard August 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

All of the above comments have their points and values. People are people, their are here for vacations. Red, Double red flags flying does not mean anything to them. They will do what ever they want to do anyway.
Sheriff Hutchinson has one of the three solutions to this problem.
1.Advise the individual to get out of the water and if they refuse, fine them $100.00 or $150.00.
2. They also should be advised that if rescue is necessary, they or their family will be billed for it.
3. Most of the Condos and hotels in the area have Beach Services. Why not require all Beach Services Employees be Life Guard Qualified. That would greatly minimize the need for Life guards to area which are not covered by hotels and Condos.

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14 regiane vigario August 24, 2008 at 7:05 pm

I was on vacation at the end of July with may family and on July 30th we went to the beach and we had red flags up and in front of us was the couple who drowned that day what an unforgettable day…WE NEED LIFEGUARDS ON THE BEACH…HOW MANY MORE DROWNINGS DO WE NEED…………………..

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15 Karen Smith August 26, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Okay my heart is so saddened for the families who have lost loved ones but I must say as a local it has always upset me when people ignore the warnings. My sons have been lifeguards and I would worry that they would have to go try to save someone who went against the warnings. I have actually gone up to people and kindly told them to look at the flags and not go in. I am hesitate to do this but I know I would feel badly if something happened to them and they did not know. I also agree with personal responsibility and although I think we need lifeguards we also need a way to keep tourist from ignoring the warning systems. Most of us who live here are accustomed to the Gulf Waters but when visitors come I do not think they realize how unpredictable the surf can be. God bless those families and keep coming to our beaches we love having you here and sharing our beaches with you!!

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16 Tania Cocito August 26, 2008 at 11:49 pm

I was saddened to physically see the deaths of two people on July 30th at Panama City Beach and upset my kids and niece had to experience that on vacation. I understand there are flags, but unfortunately when you are vacation and having fun sometimes that can be overlooked. I considered investing in this area, but the thought of no lifeguards on the beach would worry me living there in the future with children. I hope Panama City finds a way to make it a safe swimming area in the near future, Panama City Beach is way too beautiful to have such ugly repeated occurances happen.

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17 Christina Graves September 4, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I am the eldest surviving daughter of the couple who drowned at PCB on July 30, 2008.
If you were there, or experienced what happened in any way (heresay, or likewise), I would like to talk more with you about what happened that day.
Please email me at cgraves3@mail.gatech.edu
Thank you in advance.

Christina

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18 Cody February 4, 2009 at 11:30 am

I live in PCB and agree with the fact that they need lifeguards. i remeber this past summer how they had to pull 300 people out of the water. i would just like to be apart of this. so how would i find out about a beach lifeguarding job?

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19 Bernard February 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Something Bay County needs to think about.Most of the Condos and hotels in the PCB area have Beach Services. Why not require all Beach Services Employees be Life Guard Qualified. That would greatly minimize the need for Life guards to area which are not covered by hotels and Condos.

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20 LBResort 3 February 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

You can require the beach services to have life saving training(CPR)to help people on the beach. But, to mandate that a beach service employee that is hired to rent chairs and umbrellas must put his life at risk to rescue a drowning person would be a insurance and legal mightmare. The training to be a real lifeguard is very hard and demanding, which I believe takes a very special person to handle.

To a comment above: Only Mother Nature can make a “safe swimming area” and that can change in a heart beat. I don’t believe PCB or Bay County can control the tides no matter how many laws they pass. Hey, you can drown in your bath tub if your not careful.

We have a saying in the emergency sector, “You can’t prevent stupidity, you can only prepare for it.”

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21 regiane vigario February 4, 2009 at 8:30 pm

WONDERFUL NEWS…..THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO US ALL….

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22 seth February 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm

I’ve lived in Panama City/Panama City Beach almost my entire life i’m turning 18 shortly and have surfed a few places mostly PCB because I live here so long I have surfed for about 5 years, even the experienced swimmers are victums to our waters. Although tourist are more! Life guards will give a great addition to our beach because I hate being intruped by someone being pulled out by the rip and having to go pull them to the shore instead of surfing because this is a constant thing for surfers to experience (rough water means waves which manely includes double red flags) I would love to be a lifeguard on our beach i know our beaches well and will be one of the first to put in an application if lifeguards are excepted.

Seth Hollendoner

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