The Myrtle Beach flag system explained and other tips to know before swimming

Staying safe on the water in Myrtle Beach

Lt. Jonathan Evans with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue talks about staying safe while enjoying the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
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Lt. Jonathan Evans with Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue talks about staying safe while enjoying the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach Fire Department is gearing up for the busy summer season with water rescue training and lending water safety tips for swimmers and parents.

Three people have fatally drowned this year — one person drowned in a ditch and two in pools, according to the Horry County Coroner’s Office.

People should swim near a lifeguard while at the beach, said Lt. Jon Evans, and parents should always keep their eyes on children.

“We want you to come out here and have a good time, but we want you to be safe,” he said.

Fourteen people fatally drowned in Horry County in 2018, according to the Horry County Coroner’s Office, up from six drownings in 2017. Last year, four people drowned in the ocean and two people drowned in pools in Horry County, the HCCO reports.

“The ocean is a very different body of water than a pool or lake,” Evans said. “We can get some very rough currents. It all changes very quick out here.”

Evans said people should learn the meanings of the beach flags — the water is closed to the public when there are two red flags, it’s a high hazard with a red flag, a yellow flag is medium hazard, green flag is low hazard and blue flag is dangerous marine life.

MBFD urges parents to be aware of where their children are when around bodies of water. Some hotels do not have poolside lifeguards, Evans said, so it’s the parents’ job to be diligent.

“As a parent, keep an eye on your children,” Evans said. “If they aren’t strong swimmers, don’t let them in (water) by themselves.”

Fatal drownings in Horry County201620172018Jan. to April 2019
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Tony Casey with Horry County Fire Rescue said people should never swim alone or swim beyond their abilities.

“Always go out with a buddy,” he said. “And, if going out on the water, try to have a grasp on your location in case of an emergency.”

Swimmers and boaters should have life vests handy and use a waterproof phone case, Casey said.

MBFD personnel responded to the beach more than 5,000 times last summer, department records show. About 34 of those calls were for ocean rescues.

“We’re all out here as a team to keep you safe,” he said.

The Sun News Reporter Hannah Strong is passionate about making the world better through what she reports and writes. Strong, who is a Pawleys Island native, is quick to jump on breaking news, profiles stories about people in the community and obituaries. Strong has won four S.C. Press Association first-place awards, including one for enterprise reporting after riding along with police during a homicide. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Winthrop University.