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Beach flags, rip tides, heat illness: Warnings from ocean rescue ahead of First Coast holiday weekend

There will be 14 lifeguard towers up and down Jacksonville Beach. Pay attention to flags signaling water conditions and watch your children, officials advise.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — For the holiday weekend, Jax Beach Ocean Rescue shared reminders for safety, after hitting a record-high number of calls for service this past weekend.

Sunbathers, swimmers and surfers are all heading to the beach this Fourth of July weekend and that can create a traffic jam in the water.

One local surf coach is warning swimmers to take extra caution.

"Have fun, enjoy the beach, try to stay out of where all the surfers are crowded, you don't want to be swimming in front of where they're all at. You want to find an open spot on the beach where you can swim in peace and not have to dodge a bunch of boards," Sammy Shook, a surf coach said.

Leaders say there will be 14 lifeguard towers up and down Jacksonville Beach for the holiday weekend, leaders call that the perfect number to ensure all areas are covered and that guests have someone close by to contact in case of emergency.

If a lifeguard is blowing their whistle, do what they say and look for their hand signals. A lifeguard will try to prevent accidents before they happen, so always listen even if you think you’re in the clear.

Also when going to the beach, pay attention to flags that are posted to signal water conditions. There are five flag colors, ranging from safe to beach completely closed. A yellow flag signals moderate ocean conditions with rip tides and waves present, while a red flag stands for rip currents and high waves.

A frequent issue lifeguards deal with at the beach is lost, children, according to Captain Rob Emahiser with Jax Beach Ocean Rescue. He reminds parents to keep an eye on their children, always be close and when you get to the beach, show your child what lifeguard station they should go to should they get lost or need help.

"Don't look at your phone, don't read your book. Wherever the children go, you go. If they go in the water, you go. Stay within arm's reach, and then it's a lot less likely for them to get lost," Captian Emahiser said.

Jax Beach Ocean Rescue also responds to non-water-related issues, like heat illness and medical emergencies and remind everyone whether you're swimming or just laying on the beach, to stay hydrated and cool.

"If you're not outside all day routinely, you got to stay hydrated and use moderation. Don't be out all day, bring some shade but just know even if you have shade, the sand is really hot," Captain Emahiser said.

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