Keeping Your Family Safe in Coastal Florida
There are two kinds of problems that may affect your family while traveling in Coastal Florida: theft and drowning. For the first, make sure everyone keeps their valuables on them at all times. Don't leave bags unattended anywhere. If you're going to the beach, take just enough money for the day and don't flaunt expensive electronic devices like Game Boys, iPods, or portable DVD players. You're only asking for trouble. Use the hotel's safe or a safe in your room, if you have one, to lock up your valuables — cameras, extra money, and so on — when you're not using them. If driving, park your vehicle in a protected area and lock all valuables out of sight. And leave your expensive jewelry at home — purchase some fun jewelry at the beach. If you have a problem with theft, report it immediately to the local authorities.
Surrounded on three sides by water, Coastal Florida offers a myriad of water-based activities, thus drownings do occur now and then. They can be avoided as long as you respect the power of the water, heed appropriate surf warnings, and use good sense. Unfortunately, young children rarely use common sense, so you need to always watch out for them near water. If you go boating in a canoe or motorboat, other than on an excursion sightseeing boat, make sure that everyone in your family wears a life jacket. With so much water available, the best protection for everyone is to know how to swim.
Florida's tropical waters often contain dangerous creatures. In salt waters, you may confuse the fin of a dolphin with that of a shark. If you see a fin, head to shore calmly but quickly. In fresh waters, alligators have been known to drown swimmers or divers who venture into areas that are off limits. Heed warnings. They're there to protect you.
Wherever any member of your family swims, he or she should never do it alone. If the surf is high in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf, keep your face toward the incoming waves to avoid unpleasant surprises. A good rule to follow is feet first, first time, even though Florida's coastal waters are often clear. Before you attempt surfing, take some lessons from an expert to learn the proper techniques and dangers. Heed signs or flags warning of dangerous currents and undertows. If you get caught in a rip current or any tow that makes you feel out of control, don't try to swim against it. Head across it, paralleling the shore. Make sure you and your children avoid using any type of floats, inner tubes, or rafts when playing in the surf. If you swim in or wade around in murky waters where shellfish may dwell, be sure to wear canvas or water shoes (sold as Hydro Sox) to protect your feet.
Bugs are a fact of life, especially if you travel to Coastal Florida in the summer. Bug season usually lasts from March until mid November in the northern regions and all year in the southern ones. The mosquito should be Florida's official state insect. They follow the scent of carbon dioxide that humans give off and tend to be around warm, moist places. Only the female bites. Avoid them by staying clear of marshes and swamps — though this is almost impossible in South Florida. Be sure whatever insect repellent you use contains a high amount of DEET (N-diethylmeta toluamide) or permethrin.