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Safety committee preps for tourism season

November 20, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Town Public Safety Committee is continuing efforts to make Fort Myers Beach a safer place to be.

Boulevard crossing and traffic have begun to increase with the influx of seasonal residents and more visitors on the island at this time of year. It is also getting darker earlier (the sun is now beginning to set before 6 p.m. thanks to Daylight Savings Time) and, due to poor lighting issues and jaywalking, there is a fear of possible vehicle versus pedestrian situations escalating when beach goers return from the beachfront and diners return from early dinner.

Among the various measures that committee members are discussing are crosswalk lighting, updated safety brochures distribution, new banners to stream across the boulevard, town website usage for brochure printing and a proposed town map, streetlight outage and better lighting from streetlights, communication with condominium and Real Estate associations and lightning safety.

The latter issue received a presentation from officials of Thor Guard, Inc., a lightning prediction and warning systems company. Committee member Al Durrett asked the officials to speak as he is investigating lightning measures at Fish Tale Marina.

Thor Guard President Bob Dugan calls his company unique because it offers a prediction system versus a detection system. It features base systems and horns to warn when lightning is about to strike.

"Basically, what Thor Guards does is analyze the earth's micro-static field," he said. "A lightning prediction system gives you maybe 10-12 minutes advanced warning that (the area is) about to be hit by lightning. Through all those years that we've scheduled research and development, we know when certain things are going to happen. It gives people the time to seek the appropriate shelter."

Dugan informed that Thor Guard has been around since 1973, and has served more than 6,000 customers. He explained the prediction process and stated the accuracy results. His company recently installed a system on Marco Island and has systems at Southwest Florida International Airport, Naples Airport, federal law enforcement training fields and in local communities in Bonita Springs, Sanibel and many Collier County parks.

"We are better than 97 percent accurate," he said.

It was stated the Beach would require three base systems and 12 remote horns (each heard up to 700 yards away) for a cost estimate of $99,000. Durrett spoke to officials at the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District about monitoring the system. There could be a collaborated effort between Beach Fire and the Town of Fort Myers Beach in cost and maintenance as well.

"It could be a down-the-road project," said Durrett, who received positive feedback from fellow committee members.

"I was intrigued by the fact that they are starting to work on some applications for hurricanes and tropical storms too," said Jim Wray. "We ought to keep that in mind and see if that would become compatible down the road."

Safety Committee member Rexann Hosafros reported that she attended a Town Council meeting and made a request for a crosswalk lighting system at Bay Beach Drive and Estero Boulevard. Council asked Town Manager Terry Stewart to write a letter to County officials for an evaluation request at that populous residential crosswalk.

Public education continues with new brochures to be distributed at condominiums, resorts and hotels as well as special events (CERT will be asked to place them within their booth at the upcoming American Sand Sculpting Championship). A new banner reading 'Be Seen" is already strung across the boulevard (by the Beach Library) and two more slated to go up once the existing banners for upcoming events come down.

Chairperson Bruce Butcher plans on printing a couple of sample t-shirts with public safety slogans in hopes to get funds approval from Council to build an inventory for sales at special events. The committee members also chose a website layout for in the future.

With sea turtle season over until May 2014, committee members are looking into improving the overall lighting on the Beach to improve on safety for the winter months. Inquiries will be made to Florida Light & Power as to how much it would cost to take down streetlight shields and replace them come next May for the six-month season. Lighting issues during the tourism season have been known to contribute to fatalities on the south end of the Beach.

Lee County liaison Rob Phelan reiterated that safety will come from three major components (sidewalks, bike lanes, sewer drainage work) once the upcoming Estero Boulevard Improvements Project completes segments of its work. Butcher would like to add lighting and traffic/pedestrian control to the list.

The committee members also continued talk about a proposed bicycle trail from Mound House to Town Hall utilizing Shell Mound Boulevard. Discussion centered on neighborhood concerns, prior history of a proposed similar path and route specifications. A potential map of the trail was viewed.

Overall, residents and visitors are asked to "Be Safe!, Be Smart!, Be Aware!" as well as "Be Seen!" Also, the use of crosswalks when traversing the boulevard and acknowledging those who allow you the access contributes to a safe environment.



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