Spring break may be over, but summer is right around the corner, and that means thousands of people will be descending on Destin beaches once again.
In preparation, the Destin Beach Safety department, a division of the Destin Fire Control District, is rolling out new measures to ensure people know the Gulf of Mexico swimming conditions before they set foot on a boardwalk.
Previously, the only way people could get information on the day’s beach flag conditions, aside from going to the beach and looking at the flags, was to call the fire department hotline at 850-685-0610. Starting this week, people will be able to both call the hotline and get updated on the Destin Fire Rescue Facebook page.
The department now updates the page daily with a graphic depicting the beach flag color, as well as information on what the color means.
Destin Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino said the social media postings are another way the department reaches out to people to keep them informed about Gulf of Mexico safety precautions.
“We’re realizing that technology is changing, people’s views are changing, and people use social media more than they would call a phone line,” D’Agostino said. “We’ve always made the information available to the public, but the medium in which we’re doing that is changing.”
The new initiative comes just a week after dozens of people had to be rescued from the Gulf during red and double red flag conditions, though D'Agostino said the change was not related to the incidents.
“It’s one thing to know it, it’s another thing to obey it,” he said. “It’s just like we all learn in traffic school—we all know green, yellow and red. But if you don’t stop at that stop light, you know what happens.”
The beach by the Back Porch in Destin was crowded Thursday afternoon as yellow flags flew high. Mason Mauro and Hannah Perry, a couple visiting from New Orleans, said they hadn't checked the beach flag colors before they came to the beach.
"It just looked like a nice day and a lot of people were out here," Mauro said, adding that he wasn't sure what the yellow flag meant.
Valeria Davila, visiting with her family from North Carolina, also said they had not checked on the beach conditions before venturing down, and weren't too sure what all of the colors meant.
"We just came out here," Davila said. "I know that red means you have to get out of the water. But I don't know what yellow means."
Doug Rainer, public information manager for the city of Destin, said people will occasionally call the city’s front desk for beach flag information. Now that the Destin Fire Rescue page has made the information readily available, Rainer said the city directs people to their website, cityofdestin.com, which has a link that takes people to the Destin Fire Rescue Facebook page. They also inform people of the beach flag hotline’s phone number.