The Emerald Coast: Pensacola, Fort Walton, Destin, Santa Rosa Beach, Panama City Beach, and Panama City — all wonderful places to play and have fun in the sun. But it’s important to be careful and safety-conscious. Even though crime is not the major issues around here that it is in some parts of the USA, the safe vacationer is the smart vacationer. There is danger in nature and–unfortunately–danger from people. Have a great time near the beach and play by these rules:
- When on the beach, pay attention to the Public Safety Flags: Remember that a green flag means “low hazard, calm conditions” — that a yellow flag means “medium hazard, light surf or currents” — that a red flag means “high hazards, rough conditions such as strong surf or currents” — that a double red flag means “water closed to public use” — and a purple flag means “jellyfish, stingrays, and dangerous fish.”
- On the beach, be sure to “respect” the water, and teach kids to respect the water! Look over the beach area to see if there is a lifeguard present.
- Make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen; tender skin doesn’t need to be burnt or red. Prevent skin cancer later. Great idea: get a UPF rated beach umbrella to give your sunscreen a boost.
- Bring as little money as possible on the beach; just enough to buy a few things if necessary. Leave any valuables back at the hotel room or at home.
- Make sure you can swim if you get into the water. Splashing around in the shallow waves may be OK, but it’s surprising how many vacationers die by getting in over their heads in ocean waves (or in pools) when they just can’t swim.
- Avoid the rip currents. If you do get caught in one, stay calm and save energy, let the current pull you to shore. Keep breathing and don’t swim against the current. Once the current pulls you toward the shore, calmly start swimming towards it. If you can’t make it to shore, wave your arms and make noise to help someone on shore recognize that you’re in danger.
- Avoid strangers who act too friendly and try to “scam” you out of money.
- Stay sober. Even if you are drinking, make sure you don’t pass out and fall into the hands of someone dangerous. Always have a non-drinking person in the group.
- Stay in the main tourist areas; if a part of town seems “fishy” then it probably is. Leave it up to the locals to visit the hidden places in town.
- When you go to your car, keep your eyes out for strangers and have your keys in hand. Use your keys as a weapon if necessary. Open your car door in advance of being at the door.
- Use credit cards or travelers checks and avoid carrying a large amount of cash on your person. Also, be discreet when paying for big ticket items.
- Keep all your valuables in a secure place such as the hotel desk or room safe or in the trunk of your car.
- Be alert, observant, confident. Listen to your instincts. Travel in groups, the larger the better and more secure
- Talk to your tour guide or the hotel manager about safe places and where to avoid going.
- Have a map of the vacation area and surrounding places; use your GPS. Also, remain in well lit and open areas after dark
So have fun, be safe, and don’t be paranoid. I didn’t mean to worry you! Northwest Florida ranks high on all vacation spot lists. And the Panhandle is not New York or New Orleans, but it’s always better to stop on top of things. So be a smart traveler and keep an eye out for trouble.