I received a link to a youtube video today entitled “Kid with oil stuck on her! Destin Beach, FL.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QwsCHd7Lcg
As I watched the video, I sat in total surprise and horror as the videographer walked down the beach covered in bits of oil washing ashore while others sat and played on a normal summer day. I then watched as he came across a young child playing on the sand who had stepped in a batch of oil, which covered the bottom of her foot. Her mother (as you can see in the video) didn’t seem too concerned as the child cried, and said she had brought some “oil be gone” (or something to that extent).
The videographer was very clear in stating he was on Destin Beach, June 23rd.
I, horrified, immediately retweeted the link and asked if the beach was still open, or if it had closed since the 23rd. I exchanged a few tweets with others mentioning websites claiming Destin beaches were still open (even checked out the BP Deep Water Horizon Unified Command website. http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com
Considering what it could mean for the businesses of this area if the video was not actually filmed in Destin (at the time of this posting, the video has been viewed approximately 94,000 times) I decided to dive a bit deeper into the truth of this matter.
I emailed the City of Destin through their website and included the video link, asking if it was true, and if so, if the beaches were still open.
I received the following response:
Thank you for your inquiry! The video in your email was taken in neighboring Walton County, somewhere near the Whale’s Tail restaurant on the beach and I believe the Walton County Health Department has issued health advisories for that area. A website that will give you good information from Walton County local authorities is www.bswupdate.com . You can also find this link on the Oil Spill Information page on our website.
The City of Destin is located in Okaloosa County. Our beaches are being monitored by the Okaloosa County Health Department and a health advisory has been issued for a very small portion of the beaches in Destin. The Okaloosa County Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with the health dept, are the authorities that will close the beaches if it becomes necessary.
We understand that there is a lot of information out there; most of it well intended but sometimes can be misleading. We are working very hard here at the City of Destin to keep our residents and visitors well informed. This is not an easy task as the situation changes daily and sometimes hourly. Please continue to monitor our website for the latest information regarding the REAL Destin beaches.
I responded to them, thanking them for their honesty and candor, and recommending they release video of the “real” Destin beaches to correct the misinformation, as it could harm the businesses of the area. Many businesses in the Gulf Coast are now suffering economically, not from a direct impact of the spill, but from the loss of business due to fear and misinformation.
I strongly urge that transparency in this situation not only apply to negative news, but also to positive. If areas are open, if seafood is available and safe, if beaches are clean, make that be known. The Gulf Coast can use all the support it can get at this point.
Furthermore, and just an aside into the world of 2.0, agencies need to be aware and active in these communications arenas; they need to know NOW what is being said about them and to respond in a timely manner to correct misinformation. Not everyone will spend the time required to find out the truth when something like this is staring you in the face.