Last week the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors launched a pilot program at Torrance Beach to alert deaf swimmers in emergencies, the Los Angeles Times reports.
County officials equipped two buildings and lifeguard towers with the Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System (BEELS), consisting of nine loudspeakers and 48 strobe lights. The system sends out audible warnings in English and Spanish, accompanied by flashing LED strobe lights that can be seen up to a half-mile away. The speakers emitsound up to 109 decibels.
BEELS is the first system of its kind. In the event of an emergency — such as a tsunami, rip current or shark sighting — lifeguards can activate the system.
Warnings can be for just one beach or widespread, and signs will be posted in the parking lot to help visitors understand the strobes: fast means full evacuation, slow is for a water-only evacuation.
The system mimics fire alarms and doorbells with strobe lights, like those seen in hotels. Los Angeles County lifeguards are also being taught basic American Sign Language.
Gary Jones, director of the county Beaches and Harbors Department, said its mission is to improve accessibility to California’s iconic coastline.