North Carolina: Since the 1970s, North Carolina Sea Grant has partnered with beach communities on a variety of rip current safety efforts, including posters and a video. The popularity of early products resulted in requests for additional formats – such as the 50,000 brochures distributed around the country through support of at least eight other Sea Grant programs.
In 2002, at the request of coastal public safety officers, the rip current safety message was designed for metal signs. Since then, beach towns from Corolla to Calabash have posted 600 of the signs at public access points. Many towns partnered with the NWS to cover the costs of the signs, while others sought funding from state agencies or local community organizations. Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce leaders and town officials even asked for a large sticker version that could be attached to trash containers along the shoreline. The signs also were adapted for South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, and several other Sea Grant programs have incorporated the graphics in various projects.
The public education campaign – which also included front-page stories in major North Carolina papers and mentions in media across the country – received a national APEX communications award.
North Carolina efforts continue. In particular, proactive community leaders in New Hanover and Dare counties have sought continued assistance from Sea Grant and NWS to get the beach safety message out to school children, residents and vacationers.
(Photos courtesy NC Sea Grant)
Delaware: Similarly, Delaware Sea Grant has worked with several coastal towns to place larger, interpretive signs about rip current safety on boardwalks, beaches, and lifeguard stands.
Another in novative program initiated by Delaware Sea Grant includes development of beach talk presentations, where information is presented about rip currents and other coastal hazards to small gatherings of homeowner associations or community groups right on the beach.
In addition, Sea Grant outreach programs in Delaware have extended to training efforts targeting beach patrols and lifeguards, who daily record observations on rip currents and coastal wave conditions. With the assistance of Dewey Beach Patrol and the Delaware State Police Aviation Unit, dye experiments and video recordings have documented rip current development.
Through a partnership program with various coastal communities and Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Delaware Sea Grant has developed colorful, weather-resistant signs to increase public awareness and understanding of a range of coastal topics. More than 130 signs have been produced on topics such as costal storms, sand dunes, and bottlenose dolphins. The sign project is designed to serve as a “boardwalk classroom” for visitors to the Delaware coast.
New Jersey: New Jersey Sea Grant has also partnered with regional, state and local partners to post rip current awareness signs at beach access points. Available in Spanish and English language versions, the sign catches the eye of beachgoers as they make their way across the sand to the water’s edge. Working with the New Jersey Department of Emergency Preparedness and other local partners, New Jersey Sea Grant delivered approximately 2,000 signs to coastal communities throughout the state. The signs will be posted at virtually every public beach access-way along the New Jersey shore. More than 40,000 copies of an accompanying full color brochure were also delivered to beach communities.
(NJ Sea Grant credit)
Michigan: Visitors to Great Lakes beaches are sometimes surprised to learn that rip currents are a serious coastal hazard along lake shorelines. In fact, rip currents pose a significant threat along any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. Many factors contribute to formation of dangerous rip currents in the Great Lakes, and research scientists and NWS forecasters are working to develop predictive forecast methodologies and indices for rip currents in the Great Lakes.
Working with community groups and other local and regional partners, Michigan Sea Grant has developed a water safety and rip current awareness campaign to prevent drowning incidents by alerting the public to the dangers of rip currents in the Great Lakes and providing information about how to escape them. The rip currents campaign message is directed toward all people who visit Michigan’s Great Lakes beaches during the summer, including coastal residents and tourists, especially swimmers.
Florida: Florida’s Coastal Management Program, with the state Department of Environmental Protection, has teamed with Florida Sea Grant and local government partners to educate Florida’s beachgoers about rip currents. More than 900 rip current education/awareness signs have been provided to beach municipalities for posting at beach access points, fences, or boardwalks. Additionally, more than 5,000 rip current brochures have been distributed to local government tourist councils for distribution.
Florida Sea Grant has been an active partner in promoting national level rip current education and awareness efforts, and has supported scientific investigations of rip currents. Sea Grant programs from Florida, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, and Oregon, in conjunction with the Coastal Hazards Theme Team and the NWS, co-sponsored a rip current technical workshop in April 2004. The technical workshop improved communication and coordination of rip current research scientists, NWS meteorologists, and Sea Grant extension specialists, resulting in an improved national program to promote awareness of rip currents as a coastal hazard.