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Warnings, giveaways promote water safety ahead of busy 4th of July weekend

Florida Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will be out on the waterways in force this holiday weekend.

TAMPA, Fla. — For a lot of people, their July 4th weekend plans will undoubtedly include something to do with the water.

Whether that’s a trip to the beach, a backyard pool or maybe heading out on a boat. But each of those activities comes with its own set of dangers, and so on Friday, heading into the holiday weekend, public safety and fire rescue workers were doing what they could to help minimize those risks.

Florida Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office all got together to let people know they will be out on the waterways in force this holiday weekend.

They plan to check boat operators’ certifications and qualifications. They’ll be focusing on making sure boat operators are sober and making sure there’s adequate safety equipment on board for all passengers.

For those planning to swim, St. Petersburg teamed up with Seminole and Madeira Beach Fire Rescue to hand out hundreds of children’s life vests — and at no cost — to prevent drownings.

“It’s the number one preventable death that happens in children. So, we’re out here doing our best. Giving out free lifejackets,” St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Garth Swingle said.

“There’s going to be a lot of people out there on the water. So, we want you to stay vigilant. It’s better if you’re sober operating — it’s illegal to operate your boat under the influence,” U.S. Coast Guard Spokesperson Ayala Hudson explained. “Just like driving a car.”

“This is amazing,” Leigha Christina said, picking up a pair of vests for her sons, “Especially because we have a lot of people who are not from here who are visiting and it’s nice to have this out, and awareness.”

FWC also asks that people slow down in posted no-wake zones and watch out for manatees which have unfortunately seen record deaths in the past couple of years.

The bottom line from all of these agencies is to have fun this holiday weekend — but be safe out there.

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