According to detectives in the Crimes Against Children Unit at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, drowning was the number-one cause of child deaths in Pinellas County in 2018. Nationwide, drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury, and every day about 10 people die from drowning—two of which are children 14 or younger. Due to the pervasive threat of drowning, families need to take extra care of kids whenever they are near water and always have the proper size life jackets on board while boating.

Florida law requires that one personal flotation device (PFD) per passenger be readily accessible on the vessel at all times, and children under age six must wear one while underway.

In an effort to ensure kids always wear a PDF while taking a trip out on a boat, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to support Operation Kid Float—a  boating safety education program that provides youth life jackets at no cost at various locations throughout Pinellas County. Families can borrow one or more for their kids for the day and then return it after the trip.

Operation Kid Float kiosks can be found at the following parks and boat ramps:

  • Philippe Park: 2525 Philippe Parkway, Safety Harbor
  • Belleair Causeway Boat Ramp: 541S Belleair Causeway, Largo
  • Lake Seminole Park: 10015 Park Boulevard North, Seminole
  • Bay Pines Boat Ramp: 9600 Bay Pines Boulevard, Bay Pines
  • County of Pinellas: Park Boulevard Boat Ramp: 18651 Gulf Boulevard, Indian Rocks Beach
  • Dunedin Marina: 51 Main Street #1, Dunedin
  • Fort De Soto Boat Ramp: 3500 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde
  • John Chestnut Senior Park: 2200 East Lake Road South, Palm Harbor

When deputies are patrolling Pinellas County’s nearly 588 coastal miles on busy weekends, they keep an eye out for children who are already sporting their life jackets and reward them with Operation Kid Float t-shirts. If you are stopped by Marine Unit deputies without appropriately sized life jackets for the children aboard your boat, you may receive a citation and be asked to end your trip early and return home.

The loaner life jacket program may not only save your day and your wallet, but also the life of a child on board.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Sunday, September 1, 2019 10:25:00 AM

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