Dare Emergency Management awarded for ‘Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean’ campaign

Published 5:00 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

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Dare County has announced that Dare County Emergency Management has received the 2023 Preparedness Award from the International Association of Emergency Managers – a 6,000-member nonprofit educational organization that is globally recognized as being the premier organization for emergency management – for the county’s “Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean” campaign.

The prestigious award was presented to Dare County Emergency Management director Drew Pearson during the International Association of Emergency Managers’ annual conference, which was held from Friday, November 3, 2023 through Thursday, November 9, 2023 in Long Beach, California.

The Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean campaign – which brings together a diverse group of local entities ranging from municipalities and ocean rescue agencies to nonprofit organizations, business partners and the National Park Service – was launched in 2018 in an effort to protect the lives of Outer Banks beachgoers by bringing awareness to an array of 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.

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“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,” said Pearson. “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 multifaceted campaign provides important outreach to Dare County residents and visitors through the development and distribution of a wide array of resources, including a dedicated Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean website, a series of informative videos, daily beach conditions reports, text and email alerts, radio PSAs, signage and various print materials that are posted and distributed by local businesses, as well as a robust social media presence.

Having reached hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors since its launch in 2018, the Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean campaign has played an integral role in protecting Dare County beachgoers and has dramatically reduced the number of lives that have been lost due to ocean hazards each year, according to a Dare County news release.

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 to share its messaging with the public.

“I was honored to accept this prestigious award on behalf of all those that have participated in this community-wide effort,” said Pearson. “While receiving the award was humbling, the campaign’s success – achieved with incredible partnerships across our six municipalities, as well as the National Park Service, Outer Banks Forever, The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, local businesses and all of our area ocean rescue agencies – has been truly uplifting. 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.”