Dare County Emergency Management’s commitment to beach safety and ocean awareness has recently received prestigious national recognition. The International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) has honored Dare County with the esteemed 2023 USA Preparedness Award, acknowledging the outstanding success of its “Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean” campaign.
The IAEM, in a press release dated Nov. 28, highlighted Dare County’s remarkable strides in promoting beach safety, fostering community collaboration, and the team’s admirable dedication to sharing their successful model openly, without proprietary constraints.
This award specifically commends initiatives encompassing training, public awareness, education, and outreach aimed at enhancing personal and familial preparedness. It also recognizes efforts in advocating physical mitigation actions that minimize disaster impact, both for the public and public entities, as stated in the award’s description.
Since its inception in 2018, the campaign has been a concerted effort involving Dare County’s emergency personnel, all six municipalities within the county, corresponding ocean rescue agencies, the National Park Service, local nonprofits, and various other organizations and businesses, as detailed in the release.
Drew Pearson, Director of Dare County Emergency Management, emphasized the paramount objective of ensuring the safety of all beachgoers. Pearson underscored various ocean hazards such as rip currents, shorebreak, and longshore currents, noting that rip currents stand as the third most lethal weather-related hazard in the United States, tragically claiming lives in Dare County over the years.
Statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that rip currents constitute a staggering 80% of beach rescues nationwide, shedding light on the critical importance of awareness and preventive measures.
Pearson stressed the campaign’s intention: not to dissuade individuals from enjoying the ocean but to accentuate its vastly different nature from controlled environments like pools.
The campaign’s website, www.LoveTheBeachRespectTheOcean.com, hosts an array of informational videos addressing various ocean risks, including guidance on avoiding rip currents, managing heat stroke, and being vigilant against sneaker waves. Additionally, it provides a catalog of lifeguarded beach locations spanning Dare County and Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The outreach strategy extends to encompass public service announcements broadcasted across local radio stations, as well as the dissemination of posters and informational flyers through local businesses.
Enabling easy access to real-time beach conditions, the campaign facilitates sign-ups for daily email updates and local alerts via www.DareNC.com/alerts. Furthermore, individuals can receive daily beach conditions by texting “OBX beach conditions” to 77295.
Highlighting the campaign’s growth, Pearson noted a substantial increase in subscribers for text and email beach condition alerts, rising from 5,000 in 2018 to a peak of 15,200 during the summer.
While the campaign primarily covers Dare County and Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, situated in Hyde County but part of the seashore, is also included due to shared forecasting sources.