Friday, May 20, 2011

FLORIDIANS ARE ENCOURAGED TO HELP RECENT U.S.TORNADO AND FLOOD SURVIVORS

The Florida Division of Emergency Management, along with the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (Volunteer Florida) and Florida’s Disaster Fund (Florida’s Foundation) are encouraging Floridians to assist the Southeastern and Central United States that were impacted by tornadoes late last month and are still facing devastating damage from flooding. However, these agencies encourage Floridians to donate wisely to ensure donations are helpful and effective.

“Floridians know, based on our own history of hurricanes and other disasters, that the coordination of volunteers and donations is essential to recovery,” said Bryan W. Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“I have spoken to our counterparts in these states and they are working around the clock to coordinate volunteers and donations,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Wendy Spencer. “Floridians want to do their part to help out, and by donating cash or sending donations through an experienced relief organization they can be sure their assistance is meeting the most critical needs.”

Volunteer Florida, one of Florida’s lead agencies responsible for the coordination of donations and engagement of volunteers in disaster relief, and Florida’s Disaster Fund offer the following tips on how to donate wisely to support the Southeastern and Central states:

Financial Contributions are Critical and Effective
Cash donations help to avoid the labor and expense of sorting, packaging, transporting and distributing donated goods, and voluntary relief agencies can use cash to meet disaster survivors’ specific needs more quickly.

Donate to an Experienced Disaster Relief Organization
Relief agencies prefer the versatility of cash donations; however, experienced disaster relief organizations frequently have the infrastructure in place to store and distribute donated goods. To prevent waste, donations of goods should be made only to agencies that have requested specific items.

Confirm Needs Before Collecting
Donors should be wary of anyone who claims that “everything is needed.” A community hit by disaster does not have the time, staffing or money to dispose of unneeded donations. Many groups have been disappointed that their efforts and the goods they collected were not appreciated. Get precise information and confirm the need before collecting any donated goods.

Assistance Needed State-By-State
Thirteen states in the U.S. Southeastern and Central regions have been impacted by recent floods and tornadoes: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Donations can be made to each of these specific states through the National Donations Management Network, www.aidmatrixnetwork.org; additional points of contact for select states are listed below.

Alabama: www.servealabama.gov or 888-421-1266
Tennessee: www.volunteertennessee.net
Mississippi: www.mcvs.org or toll-free number 888-353-1793
Louisiana: www.volunteerlouisiana.gov or toll-free 866-286-3835

The Florida Division of Emergency Management and Volunteer Florida have also provided trained disaster personnel to assist impacted states in recovery from the recent severe weather.

# # #

The Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, Volunteer Florida, was established in 1994 by the Florida Legislature to administer grants under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The Commission grants funds to Florida AmeriCorps and National Service programs; coordinates volunteerism in disaster preparedness, response and recovery; and helps to strengthen and expand volunteer engagement for everyone from youths to seniors to people with disabilities. For more information, visit: www.volunteerflorida.org.

The Florida’s Disaster Fund is managed by Florida’s Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The mission of the Florida’s Disaster Fund is to raise funds to help Floridians with recovery from natural disasters through strengthening families and rebuilding communities. For more information, visit: www.fladisasterrecoveryfund.org.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org . Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.

DIGITAL BILLBOARD OPERATORS ACROSS FLORIDA TO BROADCAST TEST EMERGENCY ALERTS DURING STATEWIDE HURRICANE EXERCISE MAY 23 - 26, 2011

The Florida Division of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association (FOAA) and its operator members, will sponsor important test emergency alerts to be broadcast on digital billboards across Florida. This will occur in coordination with the start of the State Emergency Response Team’s Statewide Hurricane Exercise on May 23, 2011.

“This FOAA public alert system will help us ensure our residents and visitors get critical information should a real hurricane threaten our state this season,” said Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Bryan W. Koon. “We greatly appreciate this partnership with the FOAA and the dedication of its members to the safety and wellbeing of Floridians during disasters.”

The “TEST” emergency alert will be broadcast on May 23, 2011 between 12:00 – 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. In addition, FOAA members will also be donating space on their digital billboards statewide to raise awareness for hurricane preparedness by posting five different messages (based on space availability) from May 21 - May 31, 2011. The Division of Emergency Management will include the geo-location of each of these billboard sites on its publicly available GIS mapping tool – the Geospatial Assessment Tool for Operations and Response (GATOR) which is available at http://map.floridadisaster.org/gator/. This is an additional avenue for the public and emergency managers to access important information during any disaster event.

The goal of this test is to enable Florida’s general public to preview test emergency alerts for future reference in emergency situations. The list of all digital billboards in the state and a copy of the “TEST” emergency alert artwork are available upon request.

For more information on the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, please visit www.FOAA.org, and for more about the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.

Friday, May 6, 2011

FLORIDA RESPONDS TO MISSISSIPPI AND ALABAMA’S REQUESTS FOR ASSISTANCE IN TORNADO DISASTER RECOVERY

The State of Florida has received requests from the states of Mississippi and Alabama to provide trained disaster personnel to assist in the recovery from recent severe weather that produced devastating tornados across the region. The Division of Emergency Management provides interstate assistance as a part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which allows disaster-impacted states to request and receive assistance from other states quickly and efficiently.

“Our utmost concern is for the health and safety of the residents of the states impacted by this disaster,” said Bryan W. Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “In accordance with our Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we send our solemn support in this time of great need.”

The personnel requested will work to fill mission-critical needs identified by Mississippi and Alabama’s emergency managers. In Mississippi, Florida will provide technical support to the state and local emergency management agencies in the areas of disaster recovery operations, emergency housing, and individual assistance to tornado-affected areas. In Alabama, the State will send personnel to assist in the coordination of Amateur Radio communications, volunteers and donations, and public information. Under the EMAC agreement, any Florida agency that provides requested staff and resources will receive a complete cost reimbursement from the requesting state.

For more information on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

FLORIDA RECEIVES FIRE MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE GRANT FOR COLLIER COUNTY

The State of Florida has received a Fire Management Assistance Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), allowing the use of federal funds to reimburse response costs to fight the Slope Wildfire in Collier County.

“We are very grateful for the rapid response from FEMA to our request for assistance,” said Bryan W. Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “This Fire Management Assistance Grant will ensure that local and state responders have the resources they need to fight this wildfire and to help save homes and property.”

State emergency and Division of Forestry officials requested the Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) for Collier County late Wednesday afternoon and the request was granted early Thursday morning. The Slope Wildfire in Collier County has grown to more than 1,500 acres and is presently threatening Golden Gate Estates.

Federal fire management assistance covers seventy-five percent of eligible fire response costs such as field camps; equipment use; tools, materials and supplies; additional personnel; aircraft utilization, as well mobilization and demobilization activities.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.

Friday, April 15, 2011

STRONG COLD FRONT TO BRING POTENTIALLY SEVERE WEATHER TONIGHT TO FLORIDA PANHANDLE AND BIG BEND AREAS

State and local emergency management officials are encouraging residents and visitors in the Florida Panhandle and Florida Big Bend areas to stay alert and exercise caution as a potentially severe storm system moves into the area.

“The NOAA Storm Prediction Center has placed all of the Florida Panhandle and Western Big Bend in an area for an enhanced risk of severe storms on Friday night into Saturday,” said Amy Godsey, State Meteorologist. “This severe weather threat may spread east through Saturday, and we encourage residents and visitors across the region to monitor this weather system and to be prepared to act if warnings are issued.”

This storm system will have the potential to produce large hail, damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes. Residents and visitors to the state should monitor local media outlets and ensure that their NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio alert settings are turned on.

A Tornado Watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been reported as sighted, or been picked up on radar in the area.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Florida Division of Emergency Management Conducts a Successful Exercise with Turkey Point Nuclear Power Facility

The Florida Division of Emergency Management received a draft evaluation this week from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the state, in coordination with county partners and Florida Power and Light, has conducted a successful exercise on February 23, 2011 with the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant located in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

“I applaud our state, local and private sector team’s dedication to successfully completing this annual exercise,” said Bryan W. Koon, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “Every individual who participated showed exceptional effort to make this exercise a success.”

The overall objective of the exercise was to assess the level of state and local preparedness in responding to a simulated radiological emergency at the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. No Deficiencies or Areas Requiring Corrective Action were identified by the federal evaluators.

Each year, all nuclear power plants (Crystal River, Turkey Point, and Saint Lucie, as well as Farley in Dothan AL), conduct a full-scale exercise with the surrounding counties, state, FEMA, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. These exercises ensure all levels of government are well-versed on the plans and procedures needed to respond to an emergency.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN! please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DEM Launches Online Continuity of Government Website to Make State and Local Disaster Planning Easier and More Efficient

The Florida Division of Emergency Management announced today the launch of an online planning tool that will help state agencies, local governments, and non-governmental organizations create plans for the continuity of government during and after a disaster. This innovative tool will help ensure that all agencies and local governments can continue to meet the needs of its citizens after a severe emergency. Furthermore, this web-based planning resource makes it easier for state agencies and local governments to prepare for the potential needs of their citizens after catastrophic incidents.

Florida’s long experience with emergency situations teaches us that disasters can impact an organization’s leadership capabilities and ability to deliver crucial services. This interactive tool ensures that state agencies and local governments possess the necessary plans to provide continuous leadership and authority during a major event. A continuity of government plan reinforces an organization’s stability and legal authority to act in a crisis, and helps to ensure that the lifesaving mission of state and local agencies continue even after a severe disaster impact.

Planning for continuity of government operations maximizes the ability of state agencies and local governments to provide three critical services to residents during and after disasters, namely:

 Reducing and mitigating the disruption to essential government functions
 Ensuring that there are approved plans for the transfer of operational command and control
 Creating a pre-approved decision mechanism for delegations of authority

The Division conducted a series of BETA tests with several state and local agencies before officially launching the website. This testing enabled programmers to troubleshoot any potential problems with the system, and allowed agencies to provide valuable feedback to better the system.

To create your own family disaster survival plan, please visit FloridaDisaster.org. Once there, you can develop an individualized plan to keep you and your family safe during an emergency.

Monday, March 21, 2011

High Risk Of Rip Currents Expected Along Florida’s Southeast Coast Today And Tomorrow

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding beachgoers in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to be aware today through Tuesday as a high risk of rip currents is expected. There is also a moderate risk for beaches along the East Coast from Nassau County south to Martin County through Tuesday. Those traveling to the beach should stay out of the water where red flags are flying.

“Florida residents and visitors need to be aware that beach conditions could be rough along the state’s East Coast today and tomorrow,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “It’s important to check the beach warning flags before entering the water and to swim within sight of a lifeguard whenever possible.”

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) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• 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.
• 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.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• 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.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• 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.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling 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.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Did You Know?

As standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover flooding, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers coverage to protect residents from floods associated with hurricanes, ruptured dams, mudflow, snow melts and other such conditions. Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this program was created by the U.S. Congress in 1968 to assist residents with flood damages to their home, as well as furniture, clothing and other household goods.

NFIP policies are available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters and commercial owners/renters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers and the property's flood risk. Policies can be purchased through participating property and casualty insurance agents. Rates are set and do not differ from company to company or agent to agent. These rates depend on many factors, however, which include the date and type of construction of your home, along with your building’s level of risk.

Homeowners and renters who live in moderate or low-risk areas are also advised to get flood insurance as approximately 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from these areas. Because of the moderate-to-low flood risk, NFIP’s Preferred Risk Policy (a lower-cost flood insurance policy) may be available.

Flood insurance is available for businesses as well. Policies provided coverage for high-risk or moderate-to-low-risk areas with the option to purchase coverage for both the building and its contents or just the contents.

Get Floodsmart and review your options for insurance today.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A
PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did You Know?

According to the United States Department of Energy, nuclear power plants provide approximately 20 percent of the country’s overall power production. In Florida, nuclear power accounts for approximately 15 percent of the state’s total electric capacity.

Nuclear power plants are rigorously monitored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. To meet federal requirements, each facility undergoes frequent emergency preparedness drills. State and local governments also provide additional oversight, and both scheduled and unannounced inspections are conducted throughout the year. Nuclear power facilities must also have a detailed emergency plan available for those who live, work, visit, or attend school within 10 miles of the facility.

Each of the three nuclear power facilities within the Sunshine State have heavily fortified reactor containment buildings that are designed to withstand flooding and a storm surge of 20 feet above sea level. In 1992, this design was tested when Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant safely withstood the storm surge and winds from Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A
PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org.

Monday, March 14, 2011

MARCH 14 – 18, 2011 IS NATIONAL FLOOD SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK

Florida Emergency Management officials are reminding residents and visitors that this week is National Flood Safety Awareness Week. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to raise awareness during the Week of some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with floods and what you can do to protect life and property.

“Whether due to summer rains, hurricane season, or severe weather season, the Sunshine State can experience flooding at any time of the year,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon. “I encourage all Floridians to take the opportunity during this important week to learn how to better prepare for flood events and to update their family disaster plans.”

Facts on flooding in Florida:

• Flooding is one of Florida’s most frequent storm-related hazards.
• Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling, and 24 inches of water will float many vehicles.
• Many types of floods can occur in Florida:
o Areal floods are the most common flood threat in Florida. They often occur due to heavy rainfall over a larger area in a brief period of time. Urban areas are particularly vulnerable to this type of flooding. Additionally, a prolonged period of rainfall can also lead to flooding, often causing dangerous inundation of low lying areas.
o A flash flood is characterized as a rapid and significant rise in water level due to a sudden and intense heavy rainfall event. Flash flooding also occurs with the uncontrolled release of water held by a dam or levee.
o River flooding occurs each year in Florida. Although river flooding can be predicted, its effects, even over a longer period of time, can cause extensive damage to residents living near rivers and streams.
To avoid getting caught in a flood, follow these safety rules:

• NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio is one of the best ways to receive warnings from the National Weather Service. Monitor the NOAA Weather Radio or your local news sources for vital weather-related information.
• If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding, including dips, low spots, canals, ditches, etc.
• Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
• Road beds may be washed out under flood waters. NEVER drive through flooded roadways.
• Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
• Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your home and family before a flood is to have a family or business plan and purchase a federal flood insurance policy. For more information on the Week, tips on protecting your home, and how to purchase flood insurance, please visit www.FloodSafety.noaa.gov and www.FloodSmart.gov.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SOUTHEAST WINDS BRING A HIGH RISK OF RIP CURRENTS FOR FLORIDA’S PANHANDLE BEACHES TODAY AND TOMORROW

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding beachgoers along Panhandle beaches to be aware today and tomorrow as a high risk of rip currents is expected. Those traveling to the beach should stay out of the water where red flags are flying.

“The same system that is bringing the threat of severe weather to the state will also cause rough waves and rip currents along the Florida Panhandle Coast and Atlantic coast,” said Deputy State Meteorologist Michelle Palmer. “With these conditions, residents and visitors to the beaches of Florida should check the rip current outlook before entering the water and follow any instructions from safety officials.”

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) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• 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.
• 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.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• 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.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• 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.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling 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.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weekend Beachgoers Reminded To Be Aware That a Moderate To High Risk Of Rip Currents May Be Expected Along Florida's Atlantic Coast

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding beachgoers along the entire Atlantic Coast to be aware this weekend as a moderate to high risk of rip currents may be expected. Those traveling to the beach should stay out of the water where red flags are flying.

“Though temperatures will be warm and conditions favorable for beach-going along much of the Atlantic Coast this weekend, onshore winds could create a moderate to high risk of rip currents,” said Deputy State Meteorologist Michelle Palmer. “With these conditions, visitors to Florida’s East Coast beaches should check the rip current forecast before entering the water and follow any instructions from safety officials.”

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) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• 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.
• 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.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• 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.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• 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.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling 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.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Did You Know?

In Florida, wildfires can start any time of the year but peak activity generally begins in January and continues until the rainy season in early to mid-June. A typical year in the Sunshine State may see more than 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land and may have been started by arson, lightning or debris burning.

As a natural part of Florida’s ecosystems, a wildfire often begins unnoticed and can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. However, it doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing your property of debris and regular landscaping are important first steps in reducing your risk for wildfire damage. Here are 11 steps you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire.

• Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws in your community.
• Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
• Keep your lawn well-watered and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
• Create defensible space by clearing vegetation around your home – at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
• Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high.
• Dispose of debris and lawn cuttings quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
• Landscape with carefully placed, slow-growing and less-flammable plants. Your local county extension office can provide plant information.
• Check lawnmowers and farm equipment for properly working spark arresters.
• Properly extinguish fires when cooking outdoors and never leave fires unattended.
• Ensure your home’s street address is clearly marked for firefighters.
• Review and practice your fire escape plan at least twice a year.
• Review Florida Hazard Watch and Firewise Communities for additional information.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org and www.KidsGetAPlan.com.

Monday, February 28, 2011


To help keep Florida’s residents and visitors up-to-date on disaster-related operations, DEM provides a variety of information through several social media accounts, including the official SERT blog, three Twitter accounts and a Facebook page.

Our blog provides day-to-day information on emergency management activities, potential statewide hazards and other preparedness events throughout Florida and the nation.

The Division’s three twitter accounts offer users different perspectives on important emergency management-related topics. DEM’s main account, @FLSERT, gives general program and emergency information, news releases, interesting facts, videos and photos of current events; @FLSERTWeather retransmits significant severe weather alerts and statements issued by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center that are specific to Florida, as well as links to weather-related press releases and Florida hazardous weather awareness information; @FLStateWatch provides a daily feed of breaking news and alerts from the Florida State Watch Office Operations Team for all 67 Florida counties.

Facebook, another popular social media forum, is our most recent outreach service and provides users with another option to readily access DEM and disaster information.

DEM continuously strives to promote public awareness through traditional and emerging media platforms in order to provide clear, concise information to the general public, the emergency management community and news media. As technology continues to emerge, DEM will further explore every avenue available to disseminate emergency management information to the public.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Holiday Beachgoers Reminded To Be Aware That A Moderate Risk Of Rip Currents May Be Expected Along Florida's Atlantic Coast This Weekend

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding beachgoers along the entire Atlantic Coast to be aware this holiday weekend as a moderate risk of rip currents may be expected. Those venturing to the beach should remember the warning flag system and try to swim in a lifeguard-protected area.

“Despite sunny skies and warm temperatures, continued onshore winds could cause rough beach conditions along Florida’s Atlantic Coast this Presidents’ Day weekend,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “We want all residents and visitors to enjoy the Sunshine State’s beautiful beaches safely. By heeding the advice of local officials and lifeguards, beachgoers can reduce their chances of injury or loss of life.”

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) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• 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.
• 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.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• 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.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• 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.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling 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.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Travelers Urged To Use Caution As Potentially Dense Fog Affects Florida Statewide Through Monday

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are strongly urging residents and visitors to use caution as patches of dense fog may affect many Florida roadways statewide this President’s Day weekend and may persist through Monday morning.

“A moderately humid air mass combined with warmer than normal overnight temperatures and light winds will create conditions that are favorable for dense fog formation across much of Florida early Friday and Saturday morning and likely through the entire holiday weekend,” said Amy Godsey, State Meteorologist. “The dense fog is expected to lift by mid-morning. Until then, motorists traveling in these areas should remain alert and prepared for sudden drops in visibility.”

Should driving conditions be impaired, the National Weather Service will issue a Dense Fog Advisory, which means visibilities may be reduced to less than one-quarter mile. Drivers should avoid traveling in dense fog and follow these safety tips:

• During the morning hours when fog is heavier, slow down and allow for extra space between vehicles.
• Use low-beam headlights and be prepared to stop on short notice.
• Avoid driving distractions such as mobile phones and music devices.
• Monitor local road conditions for possible road closures.
• Use extreme caution and allow extra time to reach your destination.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert.

Friday, February 11, 2011

GOVERNOR SCOTT PROCLAIMS FEBRUARY 13 – 19, 2011 AS HAZARDOUS MATERIALS AWARENESS WEEK IN FLORIDA

Governor Rick Scott has proclaimed February 13 – 19, 2011 as “Hazardous Materials Awareness Week” in Florida. Joining Governor Scott in commemorating the educational week is the Florida Division of Emergency Management, in partnership with the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) for Hazardous Materials and the Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs). This year’s theme is: Sheltering in Place.

“The growth of the state’s industrial and energy-producing facilities has made Florida one of the most attractive places to live and work. However, as we enjoy the benefits of these products, we must also be aware of their potential dangers in the unlikely event of an accident,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon. “I am grateful for Governor Scott’s declaration of this important week and encourage all Floridians to take this opportunity to learn about the hazardous materials facilities in your area and to get a family disaster plan.”

LEPCs are responsible for preparing regional hazardous materials emergency response plans, managing local hazardous materials inventories and information, and performing outreach functions to increase hazardous materials awareness. In Florida, thousands of first responders and local emergency managers have received free training provided an/or coordinated by the LEPCs over the last several years.

Each year, LEPCs plan hazardous materials public education and training events throughout the week. To find out about these events in your area, visit: http://floridadisaster.org/hazmat/lepc/index.htm.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN! please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Friday, February 4, 2011

2011 Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week-- Wildfires

Florida’s Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place from January 31 – February 4, 2011. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Friday’s topic is temperature extremes and wildfires.

Though Florida is known as the Sunshine State, it could also qualify as the “Hot State.” Each summer, numerous tourists come from all over the world to enjoy the warm weather and sunny beaches, but most are unaware of just how hot it can get in Florida.

Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, the state is always influenced by tropical moisture, especially in the summer. When hot temperatures combine with high humidity, our bodies feel like it is hotter than it really is since the increased moisture in the air limits our body’s ability to cool off through sweating. This is called the Heat Index. When the heat index reaches higher than 105 degrees F, conditions can become dangerous for both people and animals. A person can experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke that may result in death if exposed to these conditions for a long period of time. When the combination of heat and humidity causes the heat index to reach dangerous levels, the National Weather service will issue Heat Advisories and Warnings.

DID YOU KNOW??? The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 degrees Fahrenheit on June 29, 1931, in Monticello. Also, in 2010, a heat index of 124 degrees was observed at the Apalachicola Airport.

To help protect yourself against the hot summer heat, make sure to wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Try to avoid doing or scheduling outdoor events during the hottest parts of the day (usually 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.). Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Check on the elderly, young children and animals during periods of prolonged heat. Apply sunscreen before exposure to the sun.

Though many people head south to escape the cold temperatures in the winter, it isn’t always warmer in Florida. There have been numerous severe cold outbreaks that have affected the state with below freezing temperatures and strong winds that produce bitterly cold wind chills. Strong winds can also make the air “feel” colder than it really is by removing the heat from our skin that our bodies generate. This is called the Wind Chill. Like high heat, very cold temperatures can also endanger humans. The National Weather Service will issue Wind Chill Advisories/ Watches/Warnings, Freeze Watches/ Warnings, hard freeze watches/warnings, and Frost Advisories if cold weather will threaten an area.

DID YOU KNOW??? The coldest temperature recorded in Florida was minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit in Tallahassee on February 13, 1899.

Floridians should remember the "Five P's" of cold weather safety. The “5 P’s” are: Protecting People, Protecting Plants, Protecting Pets, Protect Exposed Pipes, and Practice Fire Safety.

To prepare yourself from the bitter cold, stay indoors and use a safe heating source. Make sure to use space heaters according to their instructions, and be attentive to open flames. Do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. When outdoors, stay dry and in wind protected areas and wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.

Also, be aware of sensitive plants and animals. Bring in potted plants and drape a blanket, sheet or tarp over plants in the ground. Pets are just as susceptible to the cold as people are. Bring all domesticated pets indoors or at least provide shelter for animals with a closed door to keep out the wind. Make sure the shelter is clean, dry, and well insulated with straw, wood shavings or a blanket. Pet stores sell heated bowls to resist water freezing. Be sure to have extra food as outdoor animals require more calories in the winter to generate energy to ward off the cold. Horses and other livestock need a windbreak, cover, warm bedding, abundant high-quality feed, and fresh water, too.

Not only should practicing fire safety be considered when trying to heat your home during the winter, but residents and visitors should practice fire safety year round since wildfire season in Florida is considered to be 12 months long. While wildfires can start at any time of the year, the state sees a peak of activity during the early part of the year – beginning in January and continuing until the onset of more frequent rain during the wet season, usually in early to mid-June. Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service to alert people and land managers to potentially hazardous burning conditions that may add to wildfire danger and lead to the loss of control of a fire.

DID YOU KNOW??? A typical year in Florida will see over 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land. While lightning is responsible for many fires, most wildfires are started by humans – the most common causes of human-started fires are arson and escaped burns of debris.

In 2010, Florida saw over 2,500 wildfires burn nearly 28,000 acres through the end of November. This is a particularly low amount of wildfire activity compared to the past 30 years. Part of this reason is an El Niño event that was occurring during the early part of 2010. An El Niño event occurs when there is warmer than normal water in the Central and Eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

Winter El Niño events are frequently associated with cooler and wetter conditions in Florida, which helps to suppress wildfire activity. In contrast to El Niño events, there are also events known as La Niña, in which the water in the same region of the tropical Pacific is abnormally cool. La Niña events are generally associated with warmer and drier winters in Florida.

DID YOU KNOW??? An increased amount of wildfire activity is often the result of La Niña events. In fact, Florida’s most severe bouts with wildfires occurred during La Niña events or during a quick transition to La Niña.

To help control the spread of wildfires, residents across Florida are urged to be “Firewise”. The Firewise program is designed to help homeowners reduce the threat of wildfire around their homes. Homeowners can make their yards fire resistant by planting specific types of vegetation and landscaping in a way that fire will not threaten their homes. Information and tips on this program can be found at www.firewise.org.

More information on temperature hazards and wildfires and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at http://www.weather.gov/om/heat/index.shtml, http://www.fl-dof.com/wildfire/ and www.FloridaDisaster.org.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 FLORIDA SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK - HURRICANES

Florida’s Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place from January 31 – February 4, 2011. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Thursday’s focus is on hurricanes and flooding.

The most feared weather phenomenon throughout Florida during the summer and early fall is the tropical cyclone. Close to the tropics and surrounded on three sides by warm water, Florida is particularly vulnerable to these systems as they develop and move generally westward across the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

Florida has a long history of hurricanes. Records indicate that approximately 110 hurricanes and almost 200 tropical storms have impacted the state since 1851 with many more cited in history books before records were kept.

DID YOU KNOW??? No other state in the country has more hurricane landfalls per year on average than Florida does. Nearly 40% of all hurricanes that strike the United States make landfall in Florida.

The unique location of Florida in the sub-tropics makes it vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes and the relatively flat terrain can also make it susceptible to flooding. Florida is surrounded by very warm waters, which breed and support hurricanes: the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Caribbean Sea well to the south.

The North Atlantic Ocean hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and continues through November 30th. However, tropical systems can still from outside of hurricane season as early as May and as late as December. Although the number of tropical storms and hurricanes typically peaks during August and September, it is important to remember that Florida can be impacted by tropical weather systems any time during the six-month-long season. Residents and visitors need to plan ahead and remain ready for possible hurricane impacts.

The 2010 hurricane season was record-breaking in several ways. 2010 recorded 19 named storms, putting it in third place for most named storms in a season, right behind 1933 and 2005. Luckily, only one out of the 19 named storms to form in 2010 made landfall in the United States. For the fifth year in a row, Florida escaped major impacts from hurricanes. Nevertheless, Florida was the only state to receive a direct landfall from a named storm last year when Tropical Storm Bonnie moved inland in South Florida on July 23, 2010.

Despite the inactivity in the state over the past few years, we know that it only takes one storm to affect our state for long lasting impacts to be felt. The 1992 Hurricane Season serves as a reminder of this fact, as six tropical cyclones formed (a normal year has eleven), but one storm intensified into a major hurricane (Andrew) and produced widespread devastation as it made landfall near Miami and travelled across the South Florida Peninsula. This is why residents and visitors need to always be prepared for hurricanes, even if below normal hurricane activity is forecast.

DID YOU KNOW??? Hurricane Andrew remains one of only three hurricanes to make landfall at Category 5 intensity in the United States (in addition to the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane which crossed the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille which struck Mississippi in 1969.)

Only a small percentage of the numerous low pressure systems that move across the warm Atlantic waters during the summer are able to take advantage of favorable conditions to become more organized. A tropical storm will have sustained winds of 39-73 mph. When a storm’s maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph, it is considered a hurricane, and when sustained wind speeds reach 111 mph, it is considered a major hurricane. Meteorologists use the Saffir-Simpson Scale to rate the strength of a hurricane based on wind speed.

When a tropical system approaches the state, The National Hurricane Center will issue watches and warnings. Do you know the difference between a watch and warning? Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the time dangerous winds are possible within the specified area. Warnings are issued 36 hours prior to the time when damaging winds are expected. A watch should trigger your family’s disaster plan, and protective measures should be initiated. Once a warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.

DID YOU KNOW??? In the last 150 years, all of Florida’s coastal counties have been impacted by at least one hurricane.

Your main protection against hurricanes is to be prepared and have a plan. Hurricane force winds can easily destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. A hurricane plan doesn’t have to be anything extremely complicated, but should at least consist of the following two things. First, determine whether you live in an evacuation zone. This information can be obtained from your local emergency management office. If you live in an evacuation zone, know when and where you will be going to pass the storm. Have a list of emergency telephone numbers handy. Second, stock up on non-perishable supplies, batteries for electronic devices such as your NOAA Alert Radio, and have a disaster supply kit ready with enough provisions to last 3 to 5 days. To minimize wind damage, asses your property to ensure that landscaping and tress do not become a wind hazard.

While hurricanes are known and feared for their ferocious winds, historically it is the water that causes most of the deaths in hurricanes. About 90% of all hurricane fatalities occur from drowning in either storm surge or freshwater flooding.

The widespread flooding caused by Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 serves as a reminder that tropical storms can cause as much or greater devastation than hurricanes with freshwater flooding.

Even outside of tropical systems, flooding is a serious concern in Florida since it can happen anywhere and at any time. Effects from flooding can be localized, impacting just a few streets in a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting multiple cities, counties and even whole states. Flooding is caused by the amount of rainfall (meteorology) and what happens to the rain after it hits the ground (hydrology).

As our state’s population increases, buildings and pavement replace the natural land. This creates more water runoff and can increase flood problems. Most deaths due to flooding in the United States are due to people driving their cars into flooded areas. Once a vehicle begins to float, the situation for the driver and passengers becomes dangerous and often deadly.

DID YOU KNOW??? Just 6 inches of fast-moving floodwater can knock you off your feet and 2 feet of water can sweep an SUV off a road.

Residents should be aware of their location with respect to flood-prone areas and know evacuation routes. People are also urged to be extremely cautious when driving in heavy rains, especially when water covers the road. Because it is difficult to determine the depth of water or the condition of the road under the water, if you come to a flooded road, remember the phrase “Turn Around, Don’t Drown”.

Meteorologists at the Southeast River Forecast Center and local National Weather Service offices all watch the weather and use satellite pictures, Doppler radar and computer models to try to warn people well in advance of the flooding, so they can save lives and property. Flood Watches and Warnings, along with Flash Flood Watches and warning are issued for a specific area when flooding conditions are likely or are already occurring.

National Flood Awareness Week is March 14-18, 2011. National Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 22-28, 2011. More information about hurricanes and flooding and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at www.nhc.noaa.gov, http://www.weather.gov/floodsafety/ or www.FloridaDisaster.org.

Friday’s tropic will be on temperatures extremes and wildfires.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 FLORIDA SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK - TORNADOES AND THUNDERSTORMS



Florida’s Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place from January 31 – February 4, 2011. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Wednesday’s focus is on thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Thunderstorms occur frequently across Florida. In fact, Florida has the greatest number of thunderstorms in the United States. Florida averages over 70 thunderstorm days per year with much of the Gulf coast experiencing over 80 and even 100 days a year. Hazards within thunderstorms include lightning, hail, gusty winds, heavy rain that may cause flooding, and tornadoes.

DID YOU KNOW??? There are about 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the United States and about one out of every ten storms causes damage.

One of the reasons Florida has so many thunderstorms is that many of the ingredients needed to create thunderstorms can be found here almost every day. Three things are needed in the atmosphere for thunderstorms to develop and grow: the atmosphere needs to be moist, unstable, and have a source of lift. Since Florida is surrounded by water, not to mention the many inland lakes, rivers and swamps, there are plenty of sources of water vapor to feed thunderstorms.

When the weather conditions are right for thunderstorm updrafts to form, meteorologists call the atmosphere “unstable”. Florida receives plenty of sunlight which warms the air near the ground and causes unstable air. All thunderstorms have an updraft, where air rises rapidly to seven to 10 miles above the ground. This causes the moisture to turn into liquid water or ice and that forms clouds and raindrops and forms the tall, towering clouds that we can easily distinguish as “thunderstorm clouds.” However, these clouds cannot grow on their own, in order for an unstable atmosphere to produce the updrafts needed for thunderstorms, a little boost is needed to get the updraft started. Meteorologists call these boosts “lift”.

Sources of lift can be an approaching frontal system or a sea breeze boundary forming during a typical summer afternoon, and Florida has plenty of both during the year.

Thunderstorms come in different forms. Sometimes a storm has only one thunderstorm cloud and sometimes thunderstorms have a family of clouds, or cells, associated with them. Also, thunderstorms may go on for a very long time or be as brief as a few minutes.
Your local National Weather Service office has meteorologists and technicians working every hour of the day and every day of the year to issue warnings when thunderstorms become severe and these warnings give people time to move to a place of safety.

DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WATCH AND A WARNING? A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means thunderstorms capable of causing significant damage, containing winds of 58 mph or greater and quarter-size hail or larger has been indicated by radar. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that conditions are favorable for severe storms to develop. There is no immediate danger when a watch is issued, but you should keep a close eye on the weather.

When a severe thunderstorm threatens your location, go to a small interior room on the lowest floor of your building and stay away from windows. If time permits, move vehicles into garages or carports to prevent hail or wind damage. In vehicles, avoid driving into severe storms. Pull over and wait for the storm to pass.
One of the most dangerous features a severe thunderstorm can produce is a tornado. Tornadoes are not usually associated with the Sunshine State, but in the past 20 years, Florida had more reported tornadoes and more tornado-related deaths than Oklahoma, Nebraska or Iowa. Officially, Florida ranks third nationally in tornado reports (trailing only Texas and Kansas) and fourth in tornado deaths since 1990.

A tornado is a violent column of rotating air that comes down from a thunderstorm to reach the ground. Florida tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes, and occur year-round. Tornadoes usually last only a few minutes, but they can cause significant damage as they travel along the ground. Some tornadoes can travel for many dozens of miles while other tornadoes may appear to skip above the ground for a few moments. If a funnel cloud is not touching the ground, it is NOT a tornado.

Tornadoes can develop within very strong thunderstorms along sea breeze boundaries or squall lines ahead of frontal systems, but can also occur near the edge of tropical cyclones in rainbands which can extend 100 or more miles from the center of the tropical system. Tornadoes can also form over the water, which are called waterspouts. Most of these are weak, but waterspouts that reach the shore can cause the same damage as a tornado. Boaters and those on the beach need to quickly move away from them as they can easily flip over a vessel. If these move onshore, they are classified as tornadoes.

DID YOU KNOW??? The Florida Keys are widely referred to as the “waterspout capital of the world.” It is estimated that more than 400 waterspouts occur each year along the Florida Keys alone, with hundreds also reported along other areas of the Florida coast.

Frontal system tornadoes usually occur in the winter and spring months, developing along squall lines preceding cold fronts. These storms often include high amounts of wind shear, and thus tend to be the most damaging. Sea breeze boundary tornadoes are the most common, occurring mostly during the late spring and summer. Hurricane season also brings a distinct risk of tornadoes to the Sunshine State, as nearly every tropical cyclone can produce tornadoes as it impacts our state. Also, history shows that tornadoes are just as likely to form after midnight as they do during the afternoon and early evening. This is why it is important to be prepared as we enter into the more active severe weather season.

DID YOU KNOW??? 100 of the 152 tornado-related deaths in Florida since 1950 occurred between 9:00 pm and 7:00 am, with 113 of the 152 total deaths occurring in February, March and April.

The relatively small and short-lived nature of most tornadoes makes it difficult to give advance warning. The National Weather Service uses tools and volunteers to watch for severe weather. Skywarn Severe Weather Spotters are volunteers who report tornadoes to the National Weather Service and the local National Weather Service office will issue a tornado warning when a tornado is either seen by a severe weather spotter or indicated by Doppler radar. In many cases, only a few minutes of warning are given between the time a warning is issued and the eventual tornado touchdown. Nevertheless, even a few minutes of warning can make the difference between life and death. This is why having a NOAA weather radio is a critical component to the warning system as the radio will alert you whenever the National Weather Service issues a warning. Having a NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio alert you of an oncoming tornado, especially in the middle of the night, has saved lives.

DID YOU KNOW??? Meteorologists first look at the tornado damage and then estimate the wind speed that would have been needed to cause the damage. National Weather Service meteorologists use the Enhanced Fujita Scale, or EF Scale, to rate the strength of tornadoes based on the damages a storm produces.

If a tornado struck tomorrow would you be prepared? Would you know what actions to take? In Florida, tornadoes strike all too often. Whether in homes, schools or businesses, everyone should have a plan in place for severe weather.

The National Weather Service and the Florida Division of Emergency Management will conduct a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday, February 2nd, at 10:10am EST/9:10am CST. Floridians are asked to consider themselves under a tornado watch during the morning. A Tornado watch means that you should closely monitor the weather and be prepared to go to a safe place in the event of a tornado warning. At 10:10am EST/9:10am CST, the National Weather Service will issue a Drill Tornado Warning. This warning will be broadcast on NOAA weather as a “Routine Weekly Test” message. The drill will conclude around 10:30 am EST.

A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been indicated by radar or spotted on the ground. A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop.

If a Tornado Warning is issued for your area, you and your family should seek shelter immediately! Seek shelter on the lowest floor in an interior hallway, closet or small room of your home or office. The best safety advice is to get as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Stay away from windows and doors and use pillows to cover your head. Leave mobile homes and find a stronger building or house. If caught outdoors or on the road your options are not ideal, but you can still take action to survive. When outside, try to seek shelter in a nearby structure. If this is not possible, try to get as low as possible, such as a creek bed or ditch, and cover your head. Do not seek shelter under bridges and do not try to outrun a tornado.

More information about thunderstorm and tornado hazards and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at www.nssl.noaa.gov/edu/safety/tornadoguide.html and http://www.floridadisaster.org/.

Thursday’s topics will be on hurricanes and flooding.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT KICKS OFF SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK AT DOWNTOWN DISNEY

(Contest Winners Left to Right: Joey Engelman, Christopher Taylor, Alfonso Duran, Professor Nimbus Tinkermeister, Sean Reagan, Paul Capone, Garret Johnson, Miranda Shellenbarger)

Lake Buena Vista – Sunny weather greeted residents and visitors at the kickoff for Severe Weather Awareness Week at Downtown Disney on Saturday, January 29, 2011. The Florida Division of Emergency Management partnered with Radio Disney to host a two-hour street party highlighting Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week, which runs from January 31 – February 4, 2011. The week is intended to educate Florida’s residents and visitors on the weather hazards that affect the Sunshine State, and how to be prepared for them. State Meteorologist Amy Godsey joined KidsGetAPlan.com character Professor Nimbus Tinkermeister on stage, to perform weather experiments, games, and trivia designed to teach the audience about weather and preparedness.



The winners of the statewide Poster and Public Service Announcement (PSA) video contests were also in attendance and received awards on stage.


Poster and Public Service Announcement Contests
The Division invited students across the state to participate in a contest to produce preparedness messages that will become part of the Division’s 2011 public awareness campaign.



Miranda Shellenbarger, a 5th grader at Eastside High School in Brooksville, was the poster winner for her entry.












Garret Johnson and Sean Reagan of Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral were the middle school winners of the PSA video contest, entering a project entitled “Generate Some Smarts!”





Paul Capone, Alfonso Duran, Christopher Taylor and Joey Engelman from Pembroke Pines Charter High School in Pembroke Pines won the high school PSA video contest, with the winning message of “Prepare Early!” Both middle and high school winners will work with a professional production team to reproduce their PSA’s for broadcast as part of the Division’s 2011 public awareness campaign. To view the winning public service announcements, visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org/SWAW/2011/2011contestwinners.html.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management’s website, www.FloridaDisaster.org, will post videos dedicated to each hazard, each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week. The videos describe the types of natural hazards that occur in Florida and what residents and visitors can do to protect their families, homes and businesses from damage.

2011 Severe Weather Awareness Week

Monday, January 31 - Lightning
Tuesday, February 1 - Rip Currents and Marine Hazards
Wednesday, February 2 - Tornadoes and Thunderstorms
Thursday, February 3 - Hurricanes and Flooding
Friday, February 4 - Temperature Extremes and Wildfires


FLORIDA SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK - RIP CURRENTS


Florida’s Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place from
January 31-February 4, 2011. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Tuesday’s focus is on marine hazards and rip currents.

Although tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are often the first that come to mind when thinking of “most dangerous weather phenomenon in Florida”, there is another weather-related hazard that ranks as the deadliest. Florida’s beaches attract millions of residents and tourists each year. Florida’s beaches attract millions of residents and tourists each year. However, while there may be beautiful weather in the sky, there are unseen dangers in the waters.

Rip currents, sometimes erroneously referred to as rip tides or undertows, occur naturally and affect many Florida beaches year-round. On average, 10 people die in Florida each year after getting caught in rip currents. Since 1989, rip currents have accounted for more than 350 drownings along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic beaches. In fact, rip currents kill more people in Florida in an average year than hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning. In 2010, 24 people lost their lives due to rip currents, many of these drowning incidents occur on days when the weather is pleasant, with a nice breeze blowing onshore. This catches beachgoers by surprise since fair weather is usually associated with pleasant ocean conditions.

DID YOU KNOW??? Rip currents are much more localized than rip tides and undertows and are typically shorter in duration than an incoming or outgoing astronomical tide. It is important to understand that rip currents do not pull people under the water; instead they carry people out towards deeper water.

A rip current is a strong channel of water moving away from the shore at beaches. Rip currents are part of the natural near-shore ocean circulation and are quite common, occurring at many beaches every day on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. Rip currents typically form along the beach at breaks in the nearshore underwater sandbar, but they also form near structures such as jetties and piers. Rip currents form when water, piled against the shore, begins to return to deeper water. Typically, onshore winds and waves push water over the sandbar, allowing excess water to collect between the bar and the beach. Eventually, this excess water starts to return seaward through low spots in the sandbar, “ripping” an opening. While rip currents can happen any day of the year, weather or ocean conditions can cause rip currents to be stronger and more frequent on some days more than on others.

DID YOU KNOW??? You can sometimes see the signs that show a rip current is present. A visible channel of churning, choppy water; a narrow channel where there is a difference in water color; a line of seaward moving foam; an offshore area of murky water are all indicators of possible rip currents.

Rip currents are dangerous because they can pull unprepared swimmers away from shore and into deeper offshore waters. They become especially dangerous when swimmers panic and struggle against the current while being pulled farther and farther away from the beach. Contrary to popular belief, rip currents do not pull a swimmer under the water. The force of a rip current is too strong for even the strongest of swimmers, and attempts to swim directly back toward shore, especially for the panicked and tired swimmer, can be fatal.

DID YOU KNOW??? Rip currents can travel as fast as five mph, or about eight feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer can swim!

Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts also attract plenty of boaters year-round and Florida leads the nation with nearly one million registered boats. Before venturing out on the water, it is important for boaters to check on the weather. What may seem like a tranquil start to the day can quickly turn violent with hazards such as severe thunderstorms, strong winds, rough seas, lightning and waterspouts.

One way to be sure you are safe while boating is to check the marine forecasts issued by the local National Weather Service Offices when planning your voyage. Stay in port if thunderstorms are expected. If you decide to venture out into the open waters, remember that lightning presents the greatest danger to boaters. Be prepared to seek safe shelter anytime lightning is seen or thunder is heard. Never let thunderstorms cut off your route back to land.

If a thunderstorm or waterspout threatens, it is best to seek safe harbor immediately. If you are unable to get back to the dock, be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket, as gusty thunderstorm winds or waterspouts can quickly overturn small boats. If lightning is nearby, get low or head below deck, and stay away from masts and ungrounded metal objects. If caught near a waterspout, your best course of evasive action is to move at a 90 degree angle from its apparent movement, then seek safe harbor, if possible.

Knowing what kind of weather to expect is one of the keys to staying safe during your boating adventure. There are a few things that you can do to protect yourself from the dangers of rip currents and marine hazards. Before you leave, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach and boating conditions. National Weather Service offices around Florida issue a surf zone forecast and coastal waters forecasts each day, which includes the expected rip current risk and marine conditions. These forecasts should be your primary tools for planning a safe day on the water.

At the beach, look for the nearest lifeguards and check with them about existing water conditions. If you're going to a beach with no lifeguard on duty, look for warning flags or signs. Since 2006, approximately 80% of all rip current-related drowning incidents in Florida occurred at unguarded beaches.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t panic and don’t fight the current. Swim in a direction parallel to the shoreline either toward your left or right. Just remembering the simple phrase “Don’t fight...Swim left or right” could save your life. When free of the current, swim at an angle back toward shore.

National Safe Boating Week is May 21-27, 2011. Rip Current Safety Awareness Week is June 5-11, 2011. More information on rip currents and marine hazards and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov and www.FloridaDisaster.org.

Wednesday’s topic will be on tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

2011 FLORIDA SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK - LIGHTNING


Florida’s Severe Weather Awareness Week takes place from
January 31 – February 4, 2011. Severe Weather Awareness Week is an opportunity for Floridians to learn about the various weather hazards that frequently impact the state and how families and businesses can prepare for these natural events.

Each day focuses on a specific weather event. Monday’s focus is on lightning.

Lightning is one of nature’s deadliest and most unpredictable weather phenomena. Meteorologists can forecast the general conditions that cause lightning but no one can forecast the exact location or time of the next strike of lightning.

All thunderstorms contain lightning which can strike a person, tree or an object either on the ground or in the air. Lightning is among the top weather-related killers in the United States, striking the ground about 25 million times each year and causing more injury and death than tornadoes. Lightning is often seen as an underrated killer, because it does not generate as much attention compared to other forms of hazardous weather and usually only claims one or two victims at a time. On average, lightning kills nearly 60 people each year in the United States. Florida averages seven fatalities per year due to lightning, with many more injuries. Most people that are struck by lightning are not killed, but suffer significant injuries.

The 2011 Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week is a perfect time to note that our state, out of all 50 states, is the lightning capital of the country. With an average of 1.4 million cloud- to-ground lightning strikes each year, no other state experiences more lightning strikes than Florida. Why does Florida have this distinction? Florida’s geography plays a large role, especially during the summer. Some of the elements that make Florida such a great place to live, such as sunshine and the ocean, play important roles in the development of thunderstorms. Because thunderstorm activity peaks in the summer, when most people are enjoying the warm weather, Florida often has the greatest number of lightning fatalities each year in the United States.

DID YOU KNOW??? Lightning is not just confined to thunderstorms. It can even be generated by the ash cloud from an erupting volcano. Lightning is also not just confined to the Earth; lightning has been observed on Jupiter and Venus.

One characteristic that makes lightning so dangerous is its extensive range. Lightning has the ability to strike up to 10 miles away from the thunderstorm core, making it the first storm hazard to arrive and the last to leave, so while it may not be raining at your location, lightning can still reach you.
The other characteristic that makes lightning so dangerous is its power and speed. The average lightning bolt carries 100 million volts of electrical potential.

DID YOU KNOW??? Contrary to belief, lightning CAN strike the same place twice and rubber shoes or tires DO NOT protect you from lightning strikes.

Thunder is a product of lightning. As lighting moves between the ground and thunderstorm, the air around the flash heats rapidly, to temperatures as high as 50,000°F – a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun. This sudden heating creates expansion of the air around the lightning bolt at speeds greater than the speed of sound. The expanding air breaks the sound barrier resulting in the explosive sound we know as thunder. Thunder is really just another form of a sonic boom. Because sound travels much slower than light, thunder is always heard after a flash of lightning.

Thunder travels at the speed of sound, which is roughly one mile every five seconds. You can determine how far away a flash of lightning is by counting the number of seconds that pass after observing a lightning bolt. For every five seconds that elapse, the lightning is one mile away. For example, if it takes 15 seconds for the thunder to reach you, then the lightning strike occurred about three miles away.

A good rule of thumb to remember is that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Being observant when outside is your first line of defense with lightning. A darkening cloud building high in the sky is often the first sign that lightning could occur.

A "Bolt from the Blue" lightning strike is a flash which travels a relatively large distance in clear air away from the parent thunderstorm and then strikes the ground. These lightning flashes have been documented more than 25 miles away from the thunderstorm cloud. These events can be especially dangerous, as they appear to come from “clear blue sky.” The key to remaining safe from a lightning strike is to keep an eye to the sky and watch for darkening skies on the horizon along with distant rumbles of thunder.

Nearly half of all lightning deaths occur in open areas. Many people are struck when they go under a tree to keep dry during a storm. Outdoor water activities such as swimming, boating and fishing are equally as dangerous during lightning storms. Therefore, when thunderstorms are approaching, avoid outdoor activities as if your life depends on it – because it does!

The main tip to remember regarding lightning safety is: being outside is never safe during a thunderstorm!

At the first sign of lightning or sound of thunder, you should immediately head inside an enclosed structure and remain away from windows. Even while inside, it is important to stay away from windows and not use any corded electrical devices. Lightning can easily travel along phone lines or through other electrical devices and strike you while inside a building. If you can’t make it inside when a thunderstorm approaches, the most dangerous place to be is in an open area, like an athletic field or golf course.

Equally as dangerous is being caught over the open water of a lake or ocean when a thunderstorm is in the area. This is because lightning will tend to strike the tallest object in the area. This also why standing under tall trees is very dangerous. When you can’t make it to an enclosed building, your next best course of action is to get into a vehicle with a hard-topped roof.

Although the National Weather Service does not issue specific lightning warnings, products such as the Hazardous Weather Outlook can indicate the threat levels for lightning in your area on any given day. When a storm producing excessive lightning is observed or imminent, a Special Weather Statement or Significant Weather Advisory is issued to alert of its locations. Checking these products before venturing outside can help make the difference between life and death.

NWS Mobile Daily Graphical Hazards
NWS Tallahassee Daily Graphical Hazards
NWS Jacksonville Daily Hazards
NWS Melbourne Daily Graphical Hazards

NWS Tampa Daily Graphical Hazards
NWS Miami Daily Graphical Hazards
NWS Key West Daily Hazards

Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 19-25, 2011 and more information about lightning hazards and what you can do to protect yourself and others can be found at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/ and http://www.floridadisaster.org/.
Tuesday’s focus will be on marine hazards and rip currents.
For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: http://www.floridadisaster.org/. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

FLORIDA DIVISION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ANNOUNCES 2011 SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK POSTER AND VIDEO CONTEST WINNERS


As part of the annual Severe Weather Awareness Week public preparedness campaign, Florida emergency management officials today joined Radio Disney to announce the winners of the annual poster and video public service announcement contests at a kickoff event at Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista.

“Severe Weather Awareness Week is designed to educate our residents and visitors about the potential weather hazards that affect the Sunshine State,” said David Halstead, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “I applaud this year’s poster and public service announcement contest winners for their creativity in providing potentially lifesaving disaster preparedness information about these weather hazards.”

More than 800 students statewide participated in the poster and video public service announcement contests, through a partnership with the American Red Cross.

Poster Contest Winners:
1st Place: Miranda Shellenbarger
5th Grade
Eastside Elementary School, Brooksville, Florida

2nd Place: Kaitlyn Boncaro
5th Grade
Forest Lake Elementary School, Deltona, Florida

3rd Place: Virginia Villarreal
5th Grade
Westside Elementary School, Clewiston, Florida

Video PSA Contest Winners:
Middle School Category: Sean Reagan and Garret Johnson
Diplomat Middle School
Cape Coral, Florida

High School Category: Joey Engelman, Christopher Taylor,
Paul Capone, Alfonso Duran
Pembroke Pines Charter High School
Pembroke Pines, Florida

Additional Severe Weather Awareness Week sponsors include the Florida Association of Broadcasters, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association, I.D.E.A.S, and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

To learn more about Severe Weather Awareness Week, visit www.FloridaDisaster.org/SWAW/2011. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOUTHEAST WINDS BRING A HIGH RISK OF DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS FOR GULF COAST AND SOUTHEASTERN ATLANTIC BEACHES TODAY

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are urging beachgoers along the Gulf and southeastern Atlantic coasts to use extreme caution as a high risk of rip currents is expected today. The cold, gusty conditions will bring a high risk of dangerous rip currents to coastal counties from Escambia to Dixie County, Citrus to Monroe County, and Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties as well.

“The same system that is bringing the threat of severe weather to the state will also cause rough waves and rip currents along the Florida Gulf Coast and southeastern Atlantic coast,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “With these conditions, residents and visitors to the beaches of Florida should check the rip current outlook before entering the water and follow any instructions from safety officials.”

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) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the number-one concern for beach lifeguards. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• 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.
• 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.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• 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.

If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• 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.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling 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.

Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN!, please visit: www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert or join our blog at: http://flsertinfo.blogspot.com/.