Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Beach Safety Bill Set for Hearing Today!

A proposal I filed to promote safety at the state’s public beaches will be heard by a joint legislative committee this morning between 10:00AM and noon in room 437 of the State House.

Senate Bill 409, An Act Creating Uniform Beach Warnings, calls for the Department of Conservation and Recreation to create a uniform warning and safety flag program in which communities can participate on a voluntary basis and utilize a color-coded system to warn the public of potential beach hazards.  The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

The effort to pass Senate Bill 409 was initiated by David Harrison, whose 2-year-old niece Caleigh Harrison went missing from Rockport’s Long Beach on April 19, 2012 while playing with her mother and 4-year-old sister.  In January of this year, David was on a business trip to Panama when he became aware of the country’s color-coded flag system, which is used to warn the public about the dangers of tides and riptides, and to indicate whether or not it is safe to go swimming.  The Harrison family subsequently contacted me to ask if I could help facilitate the implementation of a similar program in Massachusetts.  We are now working in partnership to get the bill passed.

The Harrison family endured a terrible and unthinkable loss last year, but they are determined to do everything they can to help spare other families from the pain and grief they have experienced.  I will be joining the family at today’s hearing and asking the committee to honor Caleigh’s short life by taking favorable action on this important public safety proposal, which we are hopeful will make our beaches safer and help to save lives.

The bill enjoys bi-partisan support, including the backing of Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester).

With this very simple and cost-effective program, we can raise awareness and help folks be prepared for the dynamic conditions on our beaches and help them act accordingly to protect themselves.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that currently utilizes a uniform warning and safety flag program.  Other states with a similar program include Alabama, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.