Be smart on the beach

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We in Brunswick County pride ourselves on the tranquility of our beaches, which are the destinations of so many every summer. In fact, our tourism development authority’s marketing slogan touts our community as offering “more beach for your blanket.”

The prospect of enjoying peace, calm and quiet along the shore is what draws most people to our area every season.

And yet we are holding our collective breaths that this summer proves to be far less eventful than last when four people lost their lives in rip currents in less than 36 hours.

But hoping for the best is not good enough. In the year that has passed, municipalities and public safety agencies have reviewed their policies, procedures and practices to ensure the very best efforts are being made to keep residents and visitors safe on our coast.

Each beachside town provided a rundown of rip current protection plans at a beach consortium meeting at the end of last summer. They are using news and social media, as well as good old-fashioned pamphlets and even refrigerator magnets, to share information about the risk of ocean rip currents. Patrols are in place from late morning to early evening on most, if not all, beaches. Extra signage is posted at beach access points to reach beachgoers, too. All of these efforts are supported at the county level, as they should be.

More than 100 people nationwide die each year because of rip currents, according to estimates from the U.S. Lifesaving Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports drowning is the fifth-leading cause of death for people of all ages, and rip currents account for 80 percent of ocean rescues.

The fact remains, however, that no matter how proactive our public officials and public safety personnel are, everyone who ventures into the Atlantic Ocean from a Brunswick County beach is ultimately responsible for his or her own safety. The degree to which  beachgoers are informed about rip current risks plays a huge part in whether they are rescued or whether their bodies are recovered from the water.

Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Joyner said education is the best way to prevent these tragedies, and we cannot agree more.

This is the second week in a row we have emphasized summer safety in our editorial, but we feel it is a message worth repeating. Please exercise caution and sound judgment this summer. We want everyone to be able to enjoy all the good our community has to offer, now and always.