NAVARRE BEACH — It's officially the summer season, which means more people at the beach and more safety precautions from local officials.
Last week, Santa Rosa County announced the installation of a fifth lifeguard tower at Public Access #39 C, just west of the Caribbean Resort Condominium.
The tower was proposed at the beginning of the lifeguard season and was installed on June 14, said Brandi Whitehurst, Santa Rosa County public information officer.
"The tower was placed there to give better coverage for rip currents that have developed in the area," she said.
It's already been an active rescue season compared to previous years, said Navarre Beach Fire Rescue Chief Danny Fureigh.
"The amount of people being pulled in by us and the county lifeguards is more than previous years," he said. "We're seeing more rip currents, which is why we're trying to take preventative measures and talk to people before they go in the water."
There have been numerous rescues on the beach and one drowning so far this year. Michael Robidoux of Navarre died after attempting to rescue two children caught in a rip current along Navarre Beach.
The county has employed lifeguards for Navarre Beach since the 1970s. There are 19 county lifeguards; 12 work during the week and 14 on the weekends. A roving patrol operates between west of the Navarre Fishing Pier and Emerald Surf Condominium, where there are limited towers.
In addition to the new lifeguard tower, the county has adjusted lifeguard shifts to provide more coverage during the long summer days.
"Lifeguards adjusted their shifts one hour to offer better coverage for swimmers in summer's longer days, staffing the beach from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week," Whitehurst said. "Extending the covered area helps provide better watch over swimmers and also increases the rounding times for the roving patrol by reducing the amount of beach frontage they patrol."
For more information about water safety, visit santarosa.fl.gov/emergency/watersafety.cfm