July 3, 2012-
Florida Division of Emergency Management officials urge Florida’s residents and visitors to practice safety over the July Fourth Holiday. An elevated risk of rip currents is expected along many of Florida’s Panhandle, East Central and South Florida beaches, and Heat Index values could reach between 100 and 105 degrees. Officials also remind residents to practice fire safety, as fireworks could pose a threat to drier areas of the State.
“It is important to remember to practice safety when enjoying Florida’s natural landscape and warm climate,” said Deputy State Meteorologist Michelle Palmer. “Residents and visitors should remember to check local rip current outlooks and beach warning flags before swimming, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.”
Beaches along the East Central and Southeast Florida coast from Volusia to Miami-Dade County, as well as along the Panhandle coast from Escambia through Franklin County could see a moderate risk of rip currents through the weekend. Heat index values across the State are expected to reach 100 to 105 degrees each afternoon. Also, some Panhandle counties could be at a heightened risk for wildfires. Residents and visitors should review and follow safety tips to ensure and enjoyable July Fourth holiday.
A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) in length, but are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.
When at the beach:
Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
· Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
Ø Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
Ø Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
Ø Yellow: medium hazard
Ø Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
Ø Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life
Learn how to swim in the surf. It's not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Also, never swim alone.
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
If caught in a rip current:
DON’T PANIC. The rip won’t pull you under the water, it will just carry you seaward. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
NEVER swim against the rip. Stay afloat, go with the flow and signal for help.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore. When it does, swim toward shore.
Draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim too:
Get help from a lifeguard.
If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats--a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
Follow safe boating practices:
Have a VHF Marine Band Radio and NOAA Weather Radio on board.
Check the marine forecast well ahead of time.
Know the limitations of your boat. If small craft advisories or gale warnings are issued, you should postpone travel.
Be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket.
File a float plan at your marina.
Thunderstorms and weather-related hazards form quickly. Never let these storms cut off your route back to land.
When high humidity values combine with high temperatures, our bodies think it is hotter than it actually is. This is called the heat index. The heat index is an accurate measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature.
A person can experience sunstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heatstroke if exposed to these conditions for an extended period of time.
Heat Safety Tips
· Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear a hat or to use an umbrella.
· Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body.
· Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
· Slow down and avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day – morning hours between 4 and 7 a.m.
· Stay indoors when possible. If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine. Remember that electric fans do not cool, they simply circulate the air.
· Be a good neighbor. Check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.
· Don’t forget your pets. Make sure they have access to water, ventilation and shade.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1 and continues through November 30. To GET A PLAN!, visit www.FloridaDisaster.org. For the latest information on the 2012 Hurricane Season, follow on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.