Black Sunday revisited

Published: Friday, June 7, 2013 at 12:53 PM.

Cause for change

The events of Black Sunday ultimately led to the formation of the South Walton Fire District's Beach Safety Program, which is in its eighth season. At the time, there were no professional lifeguard agencies along the beaches, only local beach services.

"Black Sunday was the impetus for obviously a lot of concern," said Gary Wise, SWFD beach safety chief. "It took a little time to think and come up with the reports and plans for the program."

Commuting between Palm Beach and Walton County, Wise was approached in 2005 to help get the program off its feet, and in 2006 the fire district placed six lifeguard towers along its 26-miles of beach. Currently they have nine towers and approximately 30 lifeguards on duty.

"One of the big things that was lacking at the time was the educational network," Wise told The Sun. "One of the things that was needed was the ability to give beach patrons the information to understand better, and that wasn't being done."

"That's the primary job of the lifeguard, to educate these patrons and to prevent those bad situations from happening," Wise added.

And while lifeguards can educate beachgoers, they cannot physically restrain people from going into the water, which can pose problems. Although it sounds a bit harsh, Wise says common sense plays a large role in making the appropriate decision.



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