With its thousands of miles of sandy beaches, Florida is a great place to visit the beach and perhaps go for a swim. However, before venturing into the water, you need to consider some simple safety tips as the ocean can be a dangerous place if treated with disrespect. Some of Florida’s beaches can be susceptible to dangerous rip currents particular in the wake of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Florida’s waters are also home to a number of species of sharks, sting rays and jelly fish including the Portuguese Man of War. Whilst the chances of being attacked by a shark or ray are minimal, there are certain things you can do to make sure you keep as safe as possible.
Also look out for lifeguard towers and make sure you understand the beach warning flag colours. Statistically, you are 5 times safer if you swim where there are lifeguards on duty.
Finally, never go in the water (or stay on the beach for that matter) when there is the threat of thunder and/or lightning in the vicinity.
Statistics on Drowning in Florida
In an average year, over 400 people die from drowning in Florida, with around 70% of them being male. Just over half of these deaths occur in open water; either lakes, canals or the sea, the rest in swimming pools. As you might expect, the most dangerous months are between April and September when more people go to the beach and swim in the sea.
In 2009, there were 485 recorded deaths due to drowning. Over 70% of them were regarded as capable swimmers. The biggest danger when swimming in the ocean is rip currents. Tragically a number of people are killed each year trying to rescue swimmers who have got into difficulties. Unless you are an experienced and strong swimmer resist the urge to go into the sea to help someone. Always call for professional help.
Statistics also show that you are five times more likely to drown on a beach without lifeguards than you are on a beach with lifeguards. The United States Lifesaving Association has calculated that the chances of a person drowning on a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards is 1 in 18 million (0.0000055%). Unfortunately budget cuts mean that fewer beaches are protected by manned lifeguard stations these days.
As an aside, the most vulnerable group are toddlers though most of these deaths occur in swimming pool accidents rather than the ocean. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4.