Dare County Emergency Management has received the 2023 Preparedness Award from the International Association of Emergency Managers for the county’s “Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean” safety campaign launched in 2018.
The award was presented during the nonprofit organization’s annual conference held the first week of November in Long Beach, California. The association is a 6,000-member nonprofit educational organization that is globally recognized as being the premier organization for emergency management.
County municipalities, ocean rescue agencies, nonprofit organizations, business partners and the National Park Service work together on the “Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean” campaign to bring awareness to the potentially life-threatening beach and ocean hazards, such as rip currents, severe weather, extreme heat, offshore wind, shorebreak, holes in the sand and encounters with marine wildlife.
“Ocean hazards — particularly rip currents, which are the third most deadly weather-related hazard in the nation — are recognized as a top threat in the Outer Banks Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan and have needlessly claimed lives in Dare County over the years,” Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson said in a statement. “To help reduce the number of lives that are lost and the amount of injuries that occur due to these hazards, Dare County Emergency Management partnered with several key entities throughout the Outer Banks to develop a unique and engaging initiative that addresses the dangers presented by beach and ocean hazards by keeping beachgoers well informed.”
The campaign is an effort to reach Dare County residents and visitors through a range of resources, including a Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean website, videos, daily beach conditions reports, text and email alerts, radio announcements, signage and various print materials that are posted and distributed by local businesses, as well as a robust social media presence.
According to the International Association of Emergency Managers’ 2023 Awards Book: “The campaign’s success is evident in the decline of rip current drownings and near-miss rescues, showcasing its positive impact on beach safety. Furthermore, the collaboration among various stakeholders — including municipalities, lifeguard agencies, tourism bureaus and more — highlights the whole-of-community approach to mitigate ocean hazards. The willingness to share this successful model without proprietary restrictions underscores the commitment to public safety and highlights the potential for replication in other communities facing different hazards. The Dare County Emergency Management team has set a commendable example for proactive and effective emergency management practices, making them deserving winners of the prestigious Preparedness Award.”
Although the community-based campaign is primarily led by Dare County Emergency Management, Pearson attributed its success to the dedication of those who have partnered with the county including six municipalities, the National Park Service, Outer Banks Forever, The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, local businesses and all area ocean rescue agencies.
“On behalf of Dare County, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to these partners whose contributions to our Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean initiative have ultimately helped to save lives and prevent many tragedies from occurring along the Outer Banks,” he said.