Scannable rip current risk signs installed in Oak Island

OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — Oak Island Water Rescue teamed up with the Southport Rotary to install scannable rip current risk signs on Tuesday morning.

The Southport Rotary thought of the idea to install rip current warning signs a couple of months ago. The presidents shared the idea with Oak Island Water Rescue and Chief Tony Young’s wife, Cindy, came up with the idea to add a scannable QR code.

To find out the latest water conditions, all you need is your smartphone.

“There’s a QR code and you just turn on your camera, hold it up there and it’ll give you a little link to our website,” OIWR Chief Tony Young said. “When you click on that, it’s going to come up with the flag condition for the day and what our recommendation is.”

The widget that shows the conditions is updated every 15 minutes with data from the National Weather Service, so Young says the link could be even more accurate than the flag displayed at the Water Rescue Station.

“Now you don’t have to go and look for the flag anywhere. You just use your phone and it’s going to tell you exactly what the rip current condition is right now,” Young said.

Chief Young says it’s all about raising awareness for the potential dangers in the water.

“It’s so easy when you’re at the beach and just run right down to the water and if I can just get you to hesitate for 30 seconds to check the rip currents then that’s got your mind thinking about rip currents and maybe you’ll slow down before you run into the water and run right into one,” Young said.

Shawn Braswell, Southport Rotary Noon Club President, and Mary Beth Livers, Southport Rotary Evening Club President, said the signs support their mission of creating positive change in the community.

“We don’t have any lifeguards on the beach, the only warning flag is at the water rescue station,” Braswell said. “As you know, we had a tragedy this past week. The community was ready for something to change and it just so happened that we were already in the process of this.”

Braswell referenced the drowning of father and son Chris and Michael Hawkins on Wednesday, August 18.

“We have so many people who come to visit the beauty of the Carolina Coast, but may not be familiar with the ocean and the safety of swimming in an ocean, which is very different than swimming in a pool,” Livers said.

Members of the community love the idea too. Visitor from Washington D.C. Hristo Marintchev said the new signs catch his attention and would definitely make him stop and think before heading straight for the water.

“If it attracts a lot of attention and we talk about it to everybody, people will use it more and we can save lives,” Marintchev said.

As of right now, the signs are only at the street-end accesses but they are working to get them at other water accesses like the Ocean Crest Pier.

OIWR hopes the idea catches on. They are willing to share their codes and graphics with any other town that would like to install similar signs. For information, visit their website or send an email to oiwr@oiwr.org.

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