Flotation devices to be required by beach businesses
The Panama City Beach City Council held a first reading August 22 of a new ordinance which would require beach businesses to have flotation devices.
Ordinance 1497 would require businesses to have two U.S. Coast Guard approved Type IV throwable personal flotation devices. These flotation devices must be visible on a booth or stall "from which solicitation, sales or rentals of beach amusements or beach services are conducted." The devices would be available for emergency response.
The ordinance also allows for the sale or rental of personal flotation devices on the sandy beach. A second reading of this ordinance including a public hearing, is set for the 6 p.m. Thursday, September 12 City Council meeting at the City Hall Annex.
If approved September 12, the ordinance would take affect March 2020.
Elected officials have taken several steps to improve beach safety for beach-goers. Earlier this month, the City Council adopted Ordinance 1494 which provided for fines to be imposed by police and fire, and the arrest of those disobeying an order to get out of the Gulf waters during double red flags. Only police have the power to arrest. Those rules are effective immediately. Water rescue efforts will consolidate under the Fire Rescue on the start of the new fiscal year, October 1. The Beach and Surf patrols currently operate under the Police Department and the beach lifeguards currently operate under Parks and Recreation. In addition, a minimum of 12 firefighters are being open-water rescue certified as lifeguards to assist when rip currents are especially bad.
Beach businesses who invite the public to swim in the Gulf are also required to post notices of the flag warning system and an explanation of rip currents and the dangers. The beach safety ordinance also requires businesses to place a double-sided sign when the water is closed due to double red flags, effective March 1, 2020.
Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 233-5100, Ext. 2261.