EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Amid concerns about recent rip currents, the town of Emerald Isle held an educational meeting for residents and tourists aimed to teach attendees about beach safety.
The town is working to improve the safety of its beaches. It recently added lifeguard flotation devices along its 12 miles of beach. And there are more than 100 flags up and down the beach alerting folks to water conditions.
“We feel education is the first step in prevention and prevention is our best way of mitigating any issues,” Capt. William Matthias, Emerald Isle Fire Department, said.
Emerald Isle follows the US Lifeguard Association’s system for flag warnings. The town never flies a green flag, opting instead for the cautionary yellow over red flag.
“As conditions warrant, we will flip that yellow over red to red over yellow,” Capt. Matthais said.
A solid red flag means no swimming and purple means watch out for dangerous marine life like sharks or Man Of Wars.
Atlantic Beach and Emerald Isle both use the US Lifeguard Association guidelines for flag warning conditions. The town is working to encourage other communities across the area to do the same for consistency.
Resident Burt Copson attended the session. He knows first hand about the dangers of rip currents. He got caught in one years ago.
“Before I knew it, when I looked back at the beach, I was out between one and two football fields,” Copson said. “I kept telling myself to stay cool, and I kept just minute by minute getting closer and closer to the beach.”
Since June 9, 47 rescue calls were made in the town and 80 were people assisted in the ocean. Eighty percent of those calls came from lifeguards.
Residents at the meeting raised concerns about the visibility of the warning systems as well as needing more lifeguards
Other suggestions include passing out rip current warning pamphlets to all rental companies, as well as adding condition flags to all law enforcements SUVs.
The town will hold two more PEP meetings on beach safety. One will be held this Saturday at 9 a.m. and the other on Wednesday, June 28th at 6 p.m.