DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – Safety on the beach is a key to having a good holiday, and lifeguards on the Jacksonville beach want people to use caution Sunday and Monday while they enjoy the Fourth of July holiday.
Lifeguards said they saw more people than expected Sunday and they expect Monday will be even busier. The crowds started to dwindle due to storms as lifeguards asked everyone to get out of the water.
"Moments ago, we completely cleared our waters and the beach due to dangerous weather conditions approaching the Jacksonville beach area coming from the south," said Max Ervanian, a Jacksonville beach lifeguard. "Basically, what we do is we whistle everyone out of the water and make numerous amounts of announcements up and down the beach that there are dangerous weather conditions approaching and we advise all the bathers and beachgoers to exit the water, leave the beach and seek shelter immediately."
Lifeguards expect the flags will be yellow, signaling moderate waves and rip currents. They say if you aren't a swimmer, or don’t think you can handle the ocean, stay out of the water. They also said it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the lifeguard on duty wherever you set up on the beach so you can talk with them about the water conditions.
"We’ve been having extremely big problems with crowds and bathers and beachgoers onlooking (during) an emergency situation and impeding the area where we aren’t able to do our job well," Ervanian said.
The lifeguards in towers come down around 8 p.m. to start a roving patrol with fire rescue and police. They respond to water and medical calls and lost children.
"Lost children and lost parents is an extreme problem we have," Ervanian said. "Not just on Fourth of July, but every day of the summer season and even in the spring season, we’ll have missing parents and missing children."
Parents can also pick up safety bracelets from lifeguards. Parents can write a child’s name and phone number on a bracelet in case the child wanders off. They are free and available all year at the lifeguard stations.
"If you do become separated from your child or if the child becomes separated from you, go to a lifeguard immediately," Ervanian said. "We really want to stress to parents is to teach their kids to go to a lifeguard immediately."