Safety in the Surf: Oak Island finds new ways to promote beach safety

Tourist season is top of mind in Oak Island, which has been taking huge strides in promoting beach safety.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 2:56 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Tourist season is top of mind in Oak Island. In recent years, the town has been taking huge strides in promoting beach safety.

“Look around you can see the signs and stations along the beach,” said Michael Emory, Oak Island’s Communications Director. “Look, Oak Island is a swim-at-your-own-risk beach, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take every effort to give people the tools and information they need to make informed decisions for their own personal safety.”

There are new flotation devices on order, and the town has three new beach terrain vehicles on the way. You’ll find stations with rescue tubes and safety information at all 65 beach access points. Parking signs are also in place, urging people to stay clear to allow emergency vehicles access to the beach ASAP.

“We want to keep the pathway free, from street to sea,” said Emory. “Giving emergency crews the room they need to provide help.”

The town also is giving little credence to an online travel blog that has labeled Oak Island one of the country’s top 10 most dangerous beaches.

Travel Lens looked at data from rip current deaths, shark sightings and hurricanes over several years. Oak Island was on a list that includes seven Florida beaches, Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Gulf Shores, Ala.

“Look, I think the town did a good job and rebuttal and addressing the article,” said Emory. “You know, an opinion is not to be discredited by an experience. Everyone who’s been here has an experience and that experience speaks for itself.”

“Oh, I’m thrilled the word is getting out and people are paying attention,” says Oak Island Water Rescue Director, Peter Grendze.

Oak Island Rescue has been distributing magnets with QR Codes to rental properties across the island. Those QR Codes are teaching moments about beach safety and rip current risks. More than 4,000 have been passed out.

“Oh, I’m thrilled the word is getting out and people are paying attention,” said Oak Island Water Rescue Director Peter Grendze. “What’s impressive is we know since May 30th, of last year, there have been more than 47,000 scans of this code.”

“That tells me people are trying to get the information about rip currents on Oak Island.”

With 29,000 followers on Facebook, Oak Island Water Rescue’s page has become a destination to find lifesaving information. The goal is simple: being proactive to avoid having to be reactive.

“Learn to respect the water,” said Grendze. “We know many of you are on vacation when you come here. You always have to be aware and remember the ocean is a living thing and can change in an instant.”