BELMAR, NJ — Belmar has placed rip current warning signs and flotation buoys at 19 locations along its 1.3-mile oceanfront — its first step in a public education campaign to raise water safety awareness on its beaches.

The signs are written in both English and Spanish and include a large diagram on how to get out of a rip current. The signage and safety-orange buoys also have been placed at Belmar’s L Street Beach on the Shark River, located near Maclearie Park on Route 35. The locations for the signage were established by the Belmar Police and Public Works departments. 

The initiative comes in the aftermath of a drowning incident that claimed the lives of two Belmar girls in June — a tragedy that marred the start of this popular beachfront community's busy summer season.

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“Only swim when lifeguards are present. This is the one and only true way to stay safe in the ocean.” said Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty. “Our lifeguards are wonderful, but they cannot be there 24 hours a day and we sadly acknowledge that people will unfortunately attempt to swim outside of guarded hours."

Doherty said that Police Chief Andrew Huisman approached him with the idea for the campaign "and we’re moving full steam ahead. If this awareness effort saves even one life, it will be worth it.”

“In addition to the hundreds of saves made by lifeguards during the day, many evening saves are made by surfers, off-duty lifeguards, first aid and police officers. The flotation buoys are now at every beach to assist those attempting to help a distressed swimmer until first responders arrive,”  Huisman said.

This effort is the start of an ongoing public education campaign for Belmar’s beach-goers, residents and school-age children. The Belmar Police Department also is working with the Monmouth County Dive Team to deploy resources to better inform and prepare beach-goers for the inherent dangers of the ocean.