With the arrival of the fall season and cooler weather, lifeguard season is ending on area beaches and will wrap up at the end of this month along the Gulf Coast.
With fewer people at the beach, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties will be maintaining limited lifeguard presences on beaches.
On Pensacola Beach, where lifeguard season ended last week, Escambia County will staff two to three lifeguards on-duty every day throughout the winter from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On November 1st, 2016 their schedule will change from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. due to daylight saving time. During the peak season, there are about 15 lifeguards on-duty every day along Escambia beaches.
Along Navarre Beach, Santa Rosa County officials say they will not have any lifeguards patrolling through next Spring. County officials encourage beachgoers to check beach conditions and flags posted at Navarre Beach public access areas and online at www.santarosa.fl.gov.
In Okaloosa County, beach officials will maintain limited patrols and 911 responses daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. throughout the winter months on Okaloosa Island, weather permitting. Conditions in Okaloosa County will continue to be monitored and beach warning conditions will be posted on Facebook. Officials say the public is encouraged to check beach conditions on the website and/or beach webcam before planning a trip to the beach over the winter.
In Baldwin County in Alabama and in Walton County, Fla., officials say they do not staff beaches with lifeguards, October through February.
This summer Okaloosa lifeguards performed 100 rescues and 350 medical calls throughout the summer season. During the peak of the season in Santa Rosa County, 12 lifeguards safeguarded swimmers at Navarre Beach, making 94 rescues.
Pensacola Beach lifeguards rescued or assisted 577 swimmers during the season that ended Sunday, Oct.11, nearly doubling the total of 304 from a year ago. Of those rescued, 75 received medical treatment, the highest since the 2004 season. The 577 rescues or assists by Pensacola lifeguards from March 1 through Sunday marked the second highest total in the last 10 years.
Come March 1st, 2016 most area beaches will be back “in season” with increased beach safety patrols.
Officials along Gulf Coast beaches say especially when lifeguards are not present, beach goers should know and understand what each color of the Florida Beach Warning Flag system means:
- Green Flag – means “low hazard,” but to be aware and continue to practice caution.
- Yellow flag – indicates “moderate surf and conditions” such as rip currents; swimmers should exercise caution when entering the water.
- Red Flag – “strong currents and high surf” are indicators to stay out the water.
- Double Red Flags – swimming in the water is hazardous. Conditions are extremely dangerous and lifeguards will not be able to enter into the water to save you.
- Purple Flag – indicates “dangerous marine wildlife” maybe present. Please exercise safety when entering the water.