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Officials urge safety first Labor Day weekend

By Staff | Aug 30, 2018

Labor Day weekend may mark the unofficial end to summer, but that won’t stop Southwest Florida residents from enjoying warm temps, barbecues and poolside relaxation.

The holiday weekend comes with busy road ways and, for some, long distances to travel.

Taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety is key to having a fun and memorable Labor Day weekend, officials said.

“We want to ensure that families enjoy their holiday weekend but stay safe at the same time,” said Jill Palmer, executive director of the American Red Cross Southern Gulf Chapter in a release. “If you are traveling for the long weekend, make sure safety is your number one priority.”

Some travel tips to keep in mind from the Red Cross if you find yourself on the road this weekend:

* Be aware of the weather forecast in your area and destination.

* Make sure you know how to get information in the event of a disaster (local radio systems, emergency alert systems).

* Be well rested and constantly alert; be completely focused on the road.

* Keep a supply kit in the trunk (water, food, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, blankets, maps, medications, extra cash, jumper cables, etc).

* Make sure your headlights are clean and always on during rain storms and into the evening hours.

* If you have car trouble, make sure you are as far off the road as possible.

* Don’t let your gas tank get too low.

* And, of course, obey the rules of the road, wear your seatbelt and don’t drink and drive.

The Cape Coral Police Department will be perking up its collective ears this weekend for the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

Spokesperson for CCPD Master Sgt. Allan Kolak touches on what the department hopes to get out of the initiative.

“Our goal has two prongs,” he said. “One is to educate the public through use of social media and media outlets about the dangers of impaired driving. The second prong is enforcement.”

He said officers will be out in higher numbers and looking for violations of the state statutes associated with traffic but there is an emphasis on impaired driving enforcement.

They will look for driving patterns, swerving and speed of vehicles, even those who are going too far under the speed limit.

“The Cape Coral Police Department would like to advise that we want people to make the right choice and do NOT drive impaired!” Kolak said. “Have fun, enjoy friends and family and, if you partake in some adult beverages, use alternate transportation.”

Labor Day weekend, for most, is the last opportunity for folks to get out on the water or may be the last time you can take a dip in the pool before the brisk weather comes along.

Luckily, Floridians don’t have that problem.

Still, frolicking in waters on the gulf or in your backyard will be a popular activity this weekend, and can present certain dangers (not just algae or red ride related).

Residents should be hyper-aware of water safety protocol throughout the calendar year.

Cape Coral Fire Department spokesperson Andrea Schuch provided tips on how to stay safe around bodies of water.

“Practice the ABC’s of water safety,” she said.

“A: Adult supervision. It is important to have a designated ‘water watcher.’

B: Barriers. Barriers include door alarms and pool gates.

C: CPR and Emergency Response. We recommend everyone learn CPR.”

Drownings are unfortunately a somewhat common occurrence in Florida, especially in children, meaning parents need to keep a close watch on their youngsters when around any body of water.

“Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14 after motor vehicle accidents,” said Schuch. “Florida has the highest unintentional drowning deaths in ages 1-4 in the country. Lee County is third in child drowning deaths in Florida. Florida has more pools per square mile than any other state.”

The Red Cross also offered safety tips for rip currents, that take lives on beaches every year.

“If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. One you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore,” the Red Cross release states. “Stay away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.”

Grills and smokers will be fired up all weekend long, with the smell of charcoal and burgers wafting down Southwest Florida streets.

Chef’ing it up in a safe environment can help affirm that the only thing you may burn over the holiday is a hot dog or two.

Some grilling safety tips to keep in mind from the Red Cross:

* Always supervise a grill when is use.

* Never grill indoors-not in your house, camper, tent, or any enclosed area.

* Make sure everyone, including pets, stays away from the grill.

* Keep your grill out in the open, away from your house, deck, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.

* Use long-handled grilling tools.

* Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.

Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj