Tag Archive: Safety

Boating Safety Tips for REEL Summer Fun!

Boating Safety Tips for REEL Summer Fun!

Anticipation of the catch is what thousands of Panhandle boaters will have on their minds as they leave the docks this summer for a day of fishing. However, a hasty departure in their excitement to get to that favorite spot may be the recipe for an outing some would prefer to forget; or worse, a tragedy that could have been prevented.

Inshore fishing near Pensacola Pass
Photo: Molly O’Connor

Here are a few things to consider when planning a day on the water that will greatly increase your odds of having success in what matters most; a fun day and safe return for all. Heck, you can always make up some fish stories.

Equipment Check: A basic safety check involves many key aspects that can make or break a trip.

Trailer: (current tag, tires, lights, tie downs, safety chain and winch condition)
Boat: (current registration, navigation gear, vhf radio, motor condition, fuel/oil check, navigation lights, battery, anchor and rope, boat plugs, paddles)
Safety equipment: (flares, fire extinguisher, personal flotation, emergency locator beacon, sound producing device)
Tools: (basic kit with vice grips, needle nose pliers, wire cutters, screw drivers, adjustable wrench, etc.)
Miscellaneous: (sun screen, food, hat, rain gear, polarized glasses, drinking water, cell phone, dry bag, first-aid kit, medicine)
Fishing gear and bait, of course! (Insert garage full of “stuff” here)

Refer to this Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) LINK to know the legal requirements for safety gear on the size vessel you will be using. These vary depending on the length and design of the hull. In addition, the FWC provides information on the Boating Safety Education Course that is a requirement for anyone born on or after January 1, 1988; and a good idea for us “more mature” folks too.

Even if you are not taking to the water in a powerboat, many of the same common-sense and legal requirements apply to personal watercraft, kayaks and canoes. This FWC LINK provides the requirements for class-A recreational vessels less than 16 feet in length and canoes and kayaks.

In addition to all of the “stuff” you’ll need for a good day, you should also have knowledge of the waters that you will be boating on. Appropriate navigational charts are important but first-hand knowledge is always the best. If you are not familiar with the area you are boating on, at least talk to someone you know who has been in that area. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take along this friend, who would probably enjoy a day on the water too.

When you think about it, there really is a lot of stuff to keep up with when you are going out on the water as the responsible party. But the last thing you want to do is skimp on the safety aspects of your planned adventure. You would be better off to have left your favorite rod in the garage, next to your lucky hat.


Author: Erik Lovestrand – elovestrand@ufl.edu

Erik Lovestrand

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/03/boating-safety-tips-for-reel-summer-fun/

Farmers Prepare for the New Food Safety Standards

If you are a farmer, you have most likely heard about the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, by now. If you are not a farmer, you probably do not know that food safety regulations are going through a big change. The FSMA, which was passed in 2011, is considered the largest update to food safety regulation in over 80 years.

The proposed produce safety rule under the FSMA is very robust, establishing the minimum standards for worker training, health and hygiene, agricultural water use, animal soil amendments, on-farm domesticated and wild animals, equipment, tools, buildings, and sprout production.

But this new rule will not apply to all farmers. The commodities they produce and the value of their produce sold will ultimately dictate whether they will need to comply.

First, the rule does not apply to produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, or commodities the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified as “rarely consumed raw.” Secondly, if a farm has an average value of produce sold of $ 25,000 or less within the previous three years, they are also exempt.

If the farmer produces an agricultural commodity in which the rule applies and the value of their produce sold is over $ 25,000, it is still possible the farm will be exempt from most of the requirements.

Fresh cucumbers, for example, are considered a raw commodity. But cucumbers that will undergo further processing, such as for pickling, would be eligible for exemption from the produce rule. Photo by Molly Jameson.

For instance, if the average annual monetary value of food sold directly to qualified end-users was more than the average annual value of the food sold to all other buyers within the previous three-year period, the farmer would meet the first half of exemption eligibility.

What is a “qualified end-user”, you ask? They are considered the consumers of the food, or restaurant or retail food establishment, located with the same state as the farm that produced the food (or no more than 275 miles).

But even if farmers meet the above exemption eligibility standards, they must also meet the second requirement. That is, the average annual monetary value of all food sold during the three-year period must be less than $ 500,000, when adjusted for inflation.

If this all sounds confusing, you are not alone! This is why the FDA developed a chart to help farmers determine if they will be exempt: Standards for Produce Safety – Coverage and Exemptions/Exclusions for Proposed 21 PART 112.

Whether farms will be exempt from the FSMA produce safety rule or not, it is always a good idea to follow good agricultural practices and to have a farm food safety plan. To learn more about food safety on farms, view the EDIS document Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices.

If you are a farmer, or know someone who would benefit from having a food safety plan, the UF Small Farms Academy Extension Agents are offering a Building Your Own Farm’s Food Safety Manual Workshop in Tallahassee to help growers develop their own food safety manuals.

The workshop is tailored to fresh fruit and vegetable farms, fields, or greenhouses and is partially supported by a grant through the Florida Specialty Crops Block Grant program from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.

The registration fee is $ 35 for the first person representing a farm and $ 15 for an additional attendee from that farm. The workshop is limited to 20 farms on a first come, first serve basis.

The workshop will take place at the Amtrak Station, County Community Room, 918 Railroad Ave, in Tallahassee, FL, on Tuesday, May 23, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register on Eventbrite by following this link: https://farmfoodsafetymanualworkshop.eventbrite.com

Please note, this class will help farmers develop their farm’s food safety manual, but it does not fulfill the new FDA FSMA one-time training requirement.


Author: Molly Jameson – mjameson@ufl.edu

Molly Jameson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/12/farmers-prepare-for-the-new-food-safety-standards/

Farm Food Safety Certification Training – February 13

A Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training is scheduled for Monday, February 13 at the Jackson County Extension Office in Marianna, FL.  The PSA Grower Training curriculum is approved by the FDA to meet the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

Who Should Attend? – Fruit and vegetable growers with farms that have an annual value of produce sold (based on a three year average) of $ 25,000 (adjusted for inflation) or more.

Benefits to Attending – The course will cover the requirements of the FSMA produce safety rule.  It will also cover key Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that are necessary in a farm food safety plan.

Cost to Attend – The fee for the training is $ 150.  For attendees who are members of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA), a discounted rate of $ 99 is available.  (Not sure if you’re a member?  Contact Sonia Tighe at 321-214-5245 or sonia.tighe@ffva.com).  Registration fee includes the training materials, lunch, refreshments, and a Certificate of Course Attendance that complies with the training requirements of FSMA.


Registration Deadline is February 6, 2017


  • 8:30 Registration and Refreshments
  • 9:00 Welcome and Introductions
  • 9:15 Module 1: Introduction to Produce Safety
  • 10:00 Module 2: Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training
  • 11:00 Break
  • 11:15 Module 3: Soil Amendments
  • 12:00 Module 4: Wildlife, Domesticated Animals, and Land Use
  • 12:45 Lunch
  • 1:30 Module 5: Agricultural Water Part 1: Production Water
  • 2:15 Part 2: Postharvest Water
  • 3:15 Break
  • 3:30 Module 6: Postharvest Handling and Sanitation
  • 4:30 Module 7: How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan
  • 5:00 Final Questions and Evaluations


Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/07/farm-food-safety-certification-training-february-13/

Things You Should Know About Farm Food Safety

Things You Should Know About Farm Food Safety

It seems like years ago that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law, but it was actually 2011.  With a new congress convening this week, and the inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump on January 20th, the outlook for FSMA is unpredictable.  Whatever the future may hold, there are a number of important food safety compliance facts you should know.

Exempt/Excluded Status

Depending on the size of your farm, what you grow, or your clientele, you may be exempt or excluded from FSMA.  Whatever your status may be, it is important that you understand food safety protocol and that you proactively and reactively reduce food safety risks on your farm.

  • Farms that have an annual value of produce sold of $ 25,000 (based on a three year average, adjusted for inflation) or less are not covered by the regulation.
  • The farm must have food sales less than $ 500,000 per year (based on a three year average, adjusted for inflation) AND the farm’s direct sales to qualified end-users must exceed sales to all buyers combined during the previous three years. (A qualified end-user is either the consumer of the food or a restaurant or retail food establishment that is located in the same state or the same Indian reservation as the farm or not more than 275 miles away.)
  • Produce Not Covered by the Regulation
    • Produce commodities that FDA has identified as rarely consumed raw: asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplants; figs; ginger; hazelnuts; horseradish; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; and water chestnuts.
    • Produce that is used for personal or on-farm consumption.
    • Produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity.  (A raw agricultural commodity is any food in its raw or natural state.)
  • A farm with the qualified exemption must still meet certain modified requirements, including prominently and conspicuously displaying the name and the complete business address of the farm where the produce was grown either on the label of the produce or at the point of purchase.

Compliance Deadlines

Required compliance dates are set based on farm size – the larger the farm, the sooner it will need to be in compliance.

  • Very small businesses, defined as greater than $ 25,000 but less than $ 250,000 in average annual (previous three year period) produce sales, will need to comply with the regulation within four years.
  • Small businesses, defined as greater than $ 250,000 but less than $ 500,000 in average annual (previous three year period) produce sales, will need to comply with the regulation within three years.
  • All other businesses, defined as greater than $ 500,000 in average annual (previous three year period) produce sales, will need to comply with the regulation within two years of the effective date.
  • Compliance dates for farms eligible for qualified exemptions are:
    • Labeling requirements (if applicable): January 1, 2020
    • Retention of records supporting eligibility for a qualified exemption: Effective date of final rule (January 26, 2016)
    • For all other modified requirements for farms growing covered produce other than sprouts: Very small businesses—4 years, Small businesses—3 years

Note:  The compliance dates for certain aspects of the agricultural water requirements allow an additional two years beyond each of these compliance dates.

Washing lettuce. Photo Credit: Cornell University Extension

Employee Training

Regardless of whether your farm has implemented a food safety plan or not, the FDA requires approved training under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

  • At least one supervisor or responsible party from a farm subject to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule must have successfully completed food safety training, at least equivalent to the standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the FDA.
  • All workers that handle or contact covered produce or supervise workers must be trained based on FSMA standards.  Everyone working on the farm should receive annual instruction on how to accomplish his/her job.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be developed to provide clear step-by-step instructions for how workers should complete their daily tasks.
  • Visitors to the farm must be made aware of food safety policies set by the farm, and visitors must have access to toilet and handwashing facilities.

To read more on FSMA, please visit The Food Safety Modernization Act and the FDA Facility Registration Program.

An approved Food Safety Training is scheduled for February 13 in Marianna at the Jackson County Extension Office.  For more information, and to register for the training, please visit:

Farm Food Safety Certification Training – February 13




Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/01/06/things-you-should-know-about-farm-food-safety/

Deer Processing Safety

Deer Processing Safety

Freshly processed venison. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

Freshly processed venison. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

When hunting, food safety begins in the field. The goal is to have safe meat for you and your family to eat.  Here are a few ways to keep your food safe:

  1. Shot placement – that’s right. Food safety begins with an accurate shot. Your goal should be to prevent the contents of the digestive tract from touching the meat. A gut shot can quickly ruin meat and make cleaning the animal harder.
  2. The quicker you get the meat chilled the better. Improper temperature is meat’s number one enemy. The recommended storage temperature to prevent bacterial growth is 35-40°F.
  3. Handle the knife with one hand and the carcass with the other. The hide can harbor dirt and pathogens so care should be taken to prevent contamination of the meat.
  4. Have vinegar water and chlorine water on hand. Vinegar water (50/50) can be sprayed on areas where hair or hide touch the meat. Rinse hands and tools periodically in a bucket of sanitizing solution of 1 tbsp of chlorine per gallon of water.
  5. Think food safety through the whole process. Prevent cross contamination by keeping anything from contacting the meat unless it has been sterilized. Keep the digestive tract intact and prevent the contents of it from contacting the meat. Chill the meat as quickly as possible. When further processing, continue to use sterile surfaces and tools.

Many hunters age deer meat to increase tenderness and improve flavor. This is safe if done properly.  There are two ways to safely age meat.  Dry aging in a walk-in cooler or refrigerator is the best but not feasible for all hunters.  The walk-in cooler or refrigerator must be clean and have good air circulation and proper temperature control (34-38°F).  The meat can aged for 7-21 days depending on the amount of moisture in the cooler.  Too much moisture can increase microbial growth on the meat which should be cut away before further processing.  There will also be a layer of dry meat that will need to be cut away.

An ice chest can also be safely used to age meat. First, fill the clean ice chest with ice and water.  Add meat immediately to ice water and soak for 12-24 hours.  This will quickly cool the meat to the proper temperature.  Then drain the water out of the cooler and add more ice.  Keep cooler drained of water and full of ice for 5-7 days.  There may be “freezer burn” on the outside of the meat that can be cut away before further processing.

Remember food safety when further processing and storing. Wild game food safety begins in the field and ends with consumption.

For more information about safe handling of venison:




Author: Jennifer Bearden – bearden@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/18/deer-processing-safety/

Alabama Food Safety Training November 3

The Mobile County Extension Office will be hosting a Food Safety Training Class on Thursday, November 3 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.  The Class will be held at the Gulf Coast Research & Extension Center, 8300 State Highway 104, Fairhope, AL 36532.

The class will be conducted by Produce Safety Alliance trainers and will educate growers about produce safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and will provide details on how to develop a farm food safety plan.

fresh-everyday-produce-standThe course will allow participants to gain a basic understanding of:

  • Microorganisms
  • Microbial Risk Mitigation
  • Farm Food Safety Plan Development
  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule Requirements

Upon completion of the class, participants will be eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) that verifies successful completion of the class.

For more information about the class, please see the class flyer.

Not all farms are required to be in compliance with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. The training is free to Alabama residents and costs $ 120 for out-of-state participants.  For compliance clarification or to register for the workshop please call the Mobile County Extension Office at (251)574-8445.



Author: Matt Lollar – mlollar@ufl.edu

Matt Lollar is the Jackson County Horticulture Agent. He has 5 years of experience with University of Florida/IFAS Extension and he began his career in Sanford, FL as the Seminole County Horticulture Agent. Matt is originally from Belle Fontaine, AL. He earned his MS and BS degrees in Horticulture Production from Auburn University.

Matt Lollar

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/10/22/alabama-food-safety-training-november-3/

Ty’s Story: How a Lesson in ATV Safety Changed our Lives

Though it’s been a few years, Ty still vividly recalls his accident. Thankfully he is still around to enjoy 4-H projects like gardening, cooking, and embryology.

Though it’s been a few years, Ty still vividly recalls his accident. Thankfully he is still around to enjoy 4-H projects like gardening, cooking, and embryology.

Anyone who deals with youth knows that we must constantly assess risks and decide how to handle them. The risks we encounter can be assumed, reduced, transferred, or avoided. My husband and I decided early on that we would be altogether avoiding the risks associated with ATV’s when it came to our personal children.

However, in the spring after Ty, our son, turned 2 we learned that my in-laws were taking him on ATV rides not only in their yard and in the woods, but on paved public roads and across major highways to visit friends. We repeatedly asked them to stop, but Ty was hooked, and they found it difficult to tell him no. In fact, on the day of Ty’s final four wheeler ride, my brother-in-law showed up at our house on his ATV to take Ty home with him. I told him to ride home and I’d bring Ty shortly. I waited until I thought he would be safely home and off the roads. After all, it would have been tragically ironic if I had been the one to run over him.

When I took Ty over I made it very clear that my husband and I did not want Ty on a four wheeler at all, and that he certainly should not be on the highway. I explained that we had both had friends die in serious ATV accidents when we were younger, and we weren’t willing to assume the risks with our own children. It just didn’t seem worth it to us. Besides, Ty had no gear, the ATVs weren’t made for two passengers, and I knew it was against the law to ride on highways. It all seemed very rational to me, and I thought it was settled.  I was wrong.

Later that day when my husband answered the phone and then without another word stood up from the table and began walking toward the door, I knew something was wrong with Ty. I was changing our newborn daughter’s clothes after her lunch. I remember grabbing her, picking up a pair of shoes from beside the door for myself, and climbing in the truck with my husband who was still on the cordless phone as we pulled out of the drive. Needless to say it cut him off pretty quickly, and all he could say was, “Blayne said Daddy and Ty flipped the four wheeler on the highway, and Ty’s not breathing.” When we pulled in the drive my father-in-law rushed into the yard with Ty in his arms. Ty’s eyes were open, and he was breathing now. But he was having a hard time, and I could tell he was in shock, so we headed to the ER.

X-rays, CT scans, lots of drawn blood, one serious scare that nearly resulted in an ambulance ride to a larger hospital, and seemingly countless hours later, they let us go home with him. He seemed fine, but we had to follow up the next day, and of course, stay up with him during the night in case of a concussion. The whole ordeal was nerve wracking. But the worst part of all was watching my husband hold Ty during the night and repeatedly ask, “What if we had lost him? What would we have done?” Clearly he wasn’t worried about the potential for missed time from work or funeral expenses. He was talking about losing his son – living a life without him in it. It was a moment of shocking clarity when we realized that we loved him more than we even knew. It would have been hard to have lost him that day.

Ty miraculously survived his accident with little more than a bruised chest and abdomen and a story to tell.  I never said anything to my father-in-law. I didn’t have to. Watching him recount the story to the police investigator, the doctors, and other friends and family who quickly gathered with us in the hospital was punishment enough for both of us. He knew it could have been worse. I didn’t have to say it.

For those of you who are curious, a friend had called and asked my father-in-law to come over to help with something. Ty wanted to take the four wheeler, and my father-in-law caved. Ty was riding in front of my father-in-law on the ATV. As they were headed up a steep hill along the way, a large rattle snake was stretched across the road. My father-in-law didn’t want to drive over it with Ty on the ATV with him, and he didn’t want to leave it alive either, so he decided turn around and take Ty home so he could get a gun and come back to kill the snake. With the wheel cut at a sharp angle, and as he was shifting to reverse, Ty reached up and mashed the gas hard. The ATV careened out of control throwing them both and landing on Ty bending the handle bars in his chest. Thankfully, Ty landed in the grass on the shoulder of the road instead of on the pavement preventing further serious injury, and neither of them landed on the snake. (In the chaos, the snake got away. I know someone is asking that right now.) The ATV sat where they left it for weeks before someone moved it. It was more than a year before my father-in-law even had it fixed. It was a sickening reminder of a tough, and unnecessary lesson in ATV safety.

Not everyone wants to avoid ATVs altogether though. And I totally understand why. They’re fun. And when used properly, a lot of the risk associated with them can be reduced or avoided. That’s why 4-H has partnered with the ATV safety institute to bring ATV safety classes to youth and families across the nation.

During these courses, youth learn the golden rules which address the leading causes of serious injury and death in ATV-related accidents. Can you pick out the ones broken in Ty’s story? (Hint: There are only two not broken that day! Answer: 1,2,4,5,7,8.)

  1. Always wear a helmet and protective gear
  2. Never ride on public roads
  3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle
  5. Ride an ATV that’s right for your age
  6. Riders younger than 16 should be supervised
  7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed
  8. Take an ATV rider course – to do this you can visit www.atvsafety.org

Our family’s story is not unique. According to recent reports, emergency departments treated nearly 100,000 ATV-related injuries in the United States in 2013, and nearly 25 percent of those involved children younger than 16. Fortunately, our story has a happy ending, but others are not so lucky. Twenty-three percent of ATV-related fatalities occur in children younger than 16 and most of those, in children younger than 12. So take the time to educate the youth in your life about the importance of ATV safety, and teach them how to be safe on any ATV’s they may be riding.

Remember, riding ATV’s is fun. ER visits are not.

4-H offers curriculum, training (face to face and online) and even an ATV Safety App, Treadsylvania, to learn about ATV safety.  For more information on ATV safety or 4-H in general , contact your local  UF IFAS Extension office.  If you have a passion for ATV safety, consider becoming a certified ATV instructor with 4-H.  Learn more at http://florida4h.org/volunteers.

On behalf of 4-H agents across the Florida panhandle, I wish you a fun and safe summer!


Author: Whitney Cherry – cherryw@ufl.edu

Whitney Cherry is a 4-H Extension Agent in the NW District.

Whitney Cherry

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/10/tys-story-how-a-lesson-in-atv-safety-changed-our-lives/

Remember Safety when at the Beach!!

Remember Safety when at the Beach!!

Navarre Beachtourists

The sugary white sands along the Panhandle, attract millions of visitors to our area throughout the year. It is important for locals and visitors to understand and consider the following tips for safety at the beach.

The danger of rip currents far outweighs the danger of having a shark encounter. As a result of past storms, the nearshore sandbars along our beaches have changed and the frequency of rip currents has increased. A rip current is a turbulent, fast flowing current that can carry a swimmer out to sea very quickly. The currents are formed when water rushes out to sea in a narrow path (like a break in the nearshore sandbar or from an obstruction of the current caused by a groin or jetty or other type of barrier). Rip currents can last for a few hours or may be permanent; they usually exist when the surf is rough and after storms, but can occur on calm days.

Some signs of rip currents include:

  • A difference in water color. The water may be murkier from increased sediments or appear darker because it is deeper.
  • A channel of churning, choppy water.
  • A line of foam, seaweed or debris being carried directly out to sea.

Rip currents can be difficult to spot. Wearing polarized sunglasses will help you recognize changes in water color. Click here to learn more about rip currents.

If you are caught in a rip current, try not to panic or swim against the current. Swim to the left or right of the current, parallel to shore until you are out of the current. Rip currents range in width from a few feet to many feet wide.  If you can’t break out of the current, float calmly out until it ends, usually just beyond the breakers. Then swim diagonally to shore.

Remember, always use common sense and swim responsibly. For current surf conditions check out the National Weather Service rip current forecast.

Know the meaning of the beach warning flags:

  • beachflags A double red flagmeans the water is closed to the public.
  • A single red flag means the surf is very dangerous and you should stay out of the water.
  • A yellow flag indicates that you should take caution when in the water.
  • A green flag indicates that conditions are safe for swimming.
  • A purple flag means there could be dangerous marine life such as jellyfish.




When swimming at the beach it is important to remember that the Gulf of Mexico is a wilderness, not a swimming pool. Use common sense when enjoying the Gulf.  Some safety tips to remember include:

  • Swim near a life guard.
  • Know your swimming abilities and limits, if you can’t swim stay out of the water.
  • Swim in groups or use the buddy system; never swim alone.
  • Be aware of weather conditions; get out of the water and away from the beach during electrical storms. Taking shelter in a building is best, but otherwise a car.
  • Always enter the water, feet first every time!
  • Don’t swim in murky waters or between dusk and dawn.
  • Stay calm in the event of an emergency.
  • Pay attention and know the meaning of beach warning flags. Pay attention to lifeguards.
  • Avoid swimming in areas where people are fishing.
  • To avoid being stung by a sting ray, shuffle your feet, this will stir up the sand and scare away sting rays.
  • Always wear sunscreen or protect your skin with clothing.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that will float and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many drown while trying to save someone from a rip current.

Follow these tips to help make a visit to the beach a safe one!


Author: Chris Verlinde – chrismv@ufl.edu

Chris Verlinde

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/08/remember-safety-when-at-the-beach/

Life’s a Beach! Practice Beach Safety and Etiquette

Life’s a Beach!  Practice Beach Safety and Etiquette

It is that time of year again. Spring Break brings locals and visitors back to the beach for fun in the sun. It is important to remind folks that part of having fun is playing it safe. At the beach, this means knowing and following some pretty basic safety guidelines.

Not all beaches have lifeguards present, you have to be responsible for your own safety.  When visiting the beach, it is important to consider the tide and surf conditions. To minimize the risks of drowning or serious injury, a uniform warning flag program was developed for use by Florida’s beachfront communities. Florida’s beach warning flag program uses flags in four colors accompanied by interpretive signs along the beach to explain the meaning of each color in both English and Spanish. Please follow the guidelines and flags posted.

You also need to check for the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from the shore. They can pull even a strong swimmer out to sea. It is best to not enter the water where a rip current is present. However, if you find yourself caught in one, try to relax and don’t fight the current, swim out of the current parallel to the shore and swim to shore when you no longer feel the pull of the current.

Protect your skin. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance for developing melanoma later in life. Racking up more than five sunburns at any age also doubles the risk for melanoma. Keep sunburn at bay by properly applying sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Try to spend some time in the shade, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Remember to hydrate by drinking plenty of water too.

It is good to know a little bit about and appreciate the ocean life you might meet on the beach. Shark attacks aren’t common, especially in shallow shore areas, but always be on the lookout. Shells on mussels, clams and oysters can be very sharp so be careful walking near them. Some species of jellyfish have tentacles that contain venom and can sting you. Avoid them if you can.  Learn about the animals you will find at the beach and you will be able to co-exist with little risk.

Many ocean creatures need our protection. Sea turtles and many shorebirds are protected and there are things you can do to help them. For sea turtles, keep the beach clean (remove all trash and furniture), dark (turn off lights on beach and don’t use flashlights) and flat (fill in any holes you dig so that turtles don’t become trapped). In fact, it’s recommended that you take only pictures and leave only footprints. Stay away from nesting shorebird habitat. Many beaches do not allow you to bring your pets to the beach for health and safety reasons and to protect venerable wildlife. Be sure to know the rules before you bring Fido to the beach.

Finally, please help keep the beach tidy. When your visit is over, take back everything you brought. Food scraps attract unwanted animals, fishing line injures and kills birds and other wildlife and plastic is harmful to both the environment and the animals that sometimes mistake it for food. Abandoned beach furniture and toys can obstruct sea turtle nesting and hatching. The best policy is to leave the beach cleaner than you found it.

Have a good time at the beach. Take a little time to learn and follow the safety rules that are there for your protection. Practice good citizenship by caring for and conserving the beach and ocean ecosystems in order to keep them beautiful in the present and for future generations.

Many counties in the panhandle have lighting and barrier ordinances to protect wildlife and workers. Photo: Rick O'Connor

Many counties in the panhandle have lighting and barrier ordinances to protect wildlife and workers.
Photo: Rick O’Connor

Follow these beach safety tips for helping your family enjoy the beach while protecting coastal wildlife.

Follow these beach safety tips for helping your family enjoy the beach while protecting coastal wildlife.


Author: Laura Tiu – lgtiu@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

Laura Tiu

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/12/lifes-a-beach-practice-beach-safety-and-etiquette/

“Egg”cellent Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday

“Egg”cellent Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday

Easter Egg picIt seems that everywhere you look, an egg hunt is being advertised, egg dye kits are on every corner in the store, and the Internet is a-buzz with cool decorating ideas. Keep in mind this season that this fun family activity could turn rotten if you forget food safety.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness, especially salmonella, have been associated with the improper preparation and storage of eggs. Salmonella is not something you want to remember when you think back to memories of decorating and hunting eggs in the spring.

Common symptoms of salmonella include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache. Children are one population most susceptible to foodborne illness.

There is no reason to worry about potential food safety hazards associated with your holiday eggs as long as you remember to follow these guidelines:

  • Clean and sanitize your hands, preparation area, and utensils before, during, and after the cooking process.
  • Use eggs that are clean and free of cracks and leaks.
  • Cook eggs completely – no rushing or short cuts. If you don’t have the time, pick another day to do it.
  • Use only food-grade dyes; these include food coloring and dye sold in egg dye kits.  Use beet juice, blueberry juice, etc. as alternatives to artificial dye.
  • Refrigerate eggs as soon as you are finished decorating or, if decorating later, after cooking and drying.
  • The refrigerator door is the warmest spot in your fridge; store eggs in the carton in the main compartment, not in the door.
  • Toss eggs that have been out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours.  If eggs are not “found” or eaten, within this time, make the sacrifice and throw them away (of course, do this while the kids aren’t looking.)
  • When hiding eggs for a hunt, keep them in areas that are clean, free of dirt, and away from pets or pests.  Consider decorating one set for hunting and another for eating.
  • Hard-boiled eggs are safe for up to one week with proper cooking, storing, and handling procedures.

Keep these guidelines in mind for an “egg”cellent holiday with family, friends, and fun!



Author: jbreslawski – jbreslawski@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/03/11/eggcellent-food-safety-tips-for-your-holiday/

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