Recent Drownings Prompt Safety Message
July 1, 2024
  • Moved by the recent drownings of children and their families off the San Mateo County coast, officials are launching a public safety campaign reminding visitors to “Be Smart. Play Safe. Stay Aware.”

    The launch, announced today at Surfer’s Beach in Half Moon Bay, is timed to the busy Fourth of July holiday, which typically attracts thousands of visitors to the county’s 54 miles of coastline.

    “We're excited to have a lot of visitors to the San Mateo County coast this July Fourth holiday, but it’s incumbent on us to share that while the ocean may be beautiful and wonderful to cool off in, there are sneaker waves that can take a person out into the water very quickly and without warning," said Supervisor Ray Mueller whose District Three includes the coast. "Unfortunately, we’ve lost lives in this water so if you come to the coast, please keep your children within a short distance of you, remember that the water is very cold and without a wetsuit depletes your energy quickly, don’t turn your back to the ocean, and if you're caught in a sneaker wave, swim parallel to shore." 

    Visitors will see flashing roadside signs along the major coast arteries of Highway 1, which stretches from Pacifica to past Pescadero, and Highway 92, the main coastal access route for visitors from the mid-Peninsula, East Bay, South Bay and beyond.

    Signs will flash with the messages, “Be Smart. Play Safe. Stay Aware.” And then “Don’t turn back on the ocean.”

    “By prioritizing public safety through awareness and education we can work together to prevent these tragedies. Together alongside Supervisor Mueller, the City of Half Moon Bay, CAL FIRE and other partners, we are taking a stand to proactively inform visitors and residents to exercise caution along our beaches ahead of the Fourth of July holiday and summer months,” said Sheriff Christina Corpus. “This important safety message, ‘Be Smart. Play Safe. Stay Aware.’ and ‘Don’t Turn Your Back on the Ocean’ is simple and clear. Our commitment is unified. Be safe and exercise caution when visiting the coastside."

    Half Moon Bay Mayor Joaquin Jimenez added, “We welcome everyone to experience the beauty that the Coastside has to offer - the safety of our community members and our visitors is top priority. We want everyone to enjoy their time, while staying safe.”

    Drowning deaths are on the rise in the United States, following decades of decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 4,500 people died due to drowning each year from 2020–2022, 500 more per year compared to 2019.

    Drowning is the number one cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old in the United States and San Mateo County is not immune.

    “We have multiple hazards going on across the Bay Area specifically here in San Mateo County. I can’t remember a week that we’ve had Red Flag conditions in San Mateo County at the same time as the July Fourth holiday. What this means is that not only are we imploring people to be fire safe out in the community this week but we are also asking everyone seeking relief at the ocean that they think about beach safety and look out for all the hazards that are associated with the beach, including rip currents, sneaker waves and cliffs,” said CALFIRE Deputy Chief Jonathan Cox.

    The public safety campaign includes the Sheriff’s Office as well as the San Mateo County Harbor District, City of Half Moon Bay, City of Pacifica, CALFIRE, Coastside Fire Protection District and other agencies.

    Media Contact

    Cassandra Matter