O.C. public safety officials: “Keep your feet in the sand until a lifeguard is in the stand.”

OCEAN CITY, Md. – With temperatures climbing into the 90’s over the weekend, many beachgoers in Ocean City were tempted into the water. “We already saw it this past weekend. The beaches – people were saying it looked like July on the beaches this weekend,” said Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin.

But with rough currents and cold temperatures, public safety officials say it’s better to play it safe and stay out of the surf until a lifeguard is on hand. Ocean City Fire Department Chief Richard Bowers says the motto for this week is to keep your feet in the sand until a lifeguard is in the stand. “You may think you’re a good swimmer, but the ocean has a mind of its own,” said Chief Bowers.

Just on Sunday alone, Chief Bowers says first responders answered seven water rescue calls; one of those calls made for a drowning. Visitors who saw everything unfold say watching swimmers struggle in the surf was extremely upsetting. “It was just so chaotic and hectic. My wife’s daughter is very traumatized about it and now she wants nothing to do with the water. It’s understandable after seeing that,” said visitor Henry Robinson.

Capt. Arbin says lifeguards won’t be back on duty until Saturday. But, he had to call in reinforcements once those 911 calls starting rolling in. “By the afternoon I had put actual personnel on the beach on mobile units, and they did make additional rescues,” said Capt. Arbin.

With that in mind, Capt. Arbin says taking a dip could also mean taking a gamble. “If they have to call 911, there’s a delay, and you don’t have much time,” said Capt. Arbin. “Over 95% of all deaths that occur in the ocean are when lifeguards aren’t on duty. It’s an even higher percentage when you go worldwide.”

Even with those warnings, beach goers could still be seen in the water Monday afternoon. Chief Bowers says swimmers venturing into the waves could turn a day at the beach into tragedy very quickly. “You got to be careful. Swim only when there is a guard, or be very cautious when you swim at all. The water is cold right now. The temperature outside might be warm, but having that guard on the stand is also very important,” said Chief Bowers.

Visitors say they hope others will follow that guidance. “Please respect it. It’s not a game. I know everybody wants to enjoy themselves, but it could turn to tragedy real quick,” said Robinson.

As of Monday, there are no lifeguard stands on the beach yet. Capt. Arbin says that’s because they didn’t want to give beach goers a false sense of security before lifeguards are back on duty. Starting Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. all 7 days of the week, until October 3rd. “The people really need to understand the environment and take responsibility, and wait until we’re out there,” said Capt. Arbin.

Chief Bowers also says safety is important, even off the beach. He says drivers should slow down, wear their seatbelts, and obey all traffic laws. As for pedestrians, the chief says they should use the sidewalk and crosswalks when possible. Chief Bowers adds that if you’re visiting from out of town, it’s also important to know your exact location before calling 911. “We welcome you. We want you, and we want you to have a safe vacation or a safe stay when you’re here. Please, please, by all means make sure you know where you’re at when you’re in a dangerous situation,” said Chief Bowers.

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