With spring break quickly approaching, many families will head to Florida for some much needed fun in the sun. Being from Georgia, my family and I go to Florida nearly every year. A couple of years ago, my then 11-year-old son and I decided to Parasail, which is one of the more popular activities for both kids and adults. Right there on the beach were several Parasailing stands, with a line of people excitedly waiting to be tethered to a canopy that is secured to a boat that will fly them weightless, high above the water. While it all seems safe enough, I have since learned that there are no regulations governing the 120 parasailing operators in Florida, and this lack of regulation can result in a tragic outcomes. Here’s a link to an ABC news story about a parasailing accident.
According to the Parasail Safety Council, of the estimated 153 million parasailing rides between 1982-2012, there have been 73 deaths and over 1600 injuries. The most serious injuries occur when tow lines separate, sending parasailors flying untethered through the air into fixed objects, such as buildings or power lines, and during unplanned high-speed water or deck landings.
Currently, there are no regulations governing the parasailing operations in Florida. That means that ropes are not inspected for wear and tear, and it is up to the operator to decide if weather conditions are too dangerous to take the trip.
With more oversight, these injuries and fatalities can be prevented. Legislation has recently been proposed that would include the following regulations for parasailing operations in Florida:
- Parasailing equipment would be inspected
- Operators would be required to have insurance
- Operators would be forbidden to offer rides when winds are above 20 mph, gusts of wind are 15 mph or greater, and when there’s a known lightning storm 7 miles away
- Operators would be required to carry special weather radios to alert them of up-to-date weather conditions
- Operators would be prohibited from operating near fixed objects
Currently, when you choose to Parasail, there is no way for you to know how many times the ropes securing you have been used to secure other people, nor how much salt and rain the ropes have been exposed to. Even more sinister is the uncontrollable weather. Storms and high winds can happen quickly and unexpectedly in Florida, which can result in serious, sometimes fatal consequences. If you decide to Parasail this spring break, there are some precautions you can take to make it a safer experience:
Be aware of the surrounding weather conditions. Check the weather report on the day you are scheduled to parasail. Do not parasail if there is fog, wind, rain or an approaching storm within 7 miles.
- Regardless of what parasail operators tell you, you should not parasail if you are under 12 years old or if you have physical limitations.
- Ask how long the company has been in business and make sure the company is licensed.
- Check to see if the boat operator is a U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Captain.
- Finally, make sure that the operator goes over safety and evacuation procedures and there are hand signals to follow should something go wrong.
While parasailing is fun and millions of people will choose to do it this year, keep in mind that there is no one governing the operations of the parasailing company that you are trusting to carry you or your loved ones 400 feet in the air, so it is up to you to make it a safe flying experience.
*Additional safety precautions may be found at the Parasail Safety Council website: www.parasail.org