Warnings for Georgians heading to Florida beaches - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Warnings for Georgians heading to Florida beaches

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  While Georgia won't be directly impacted by the oil spill, Emergency Management Agencies and Public Health in southwest Georgia are keeping a close eye on the situation.

They're asking local doctors and emergency rooms to be ready to alert health officials if visitors to Florida start coming in with similar symptoms. Emergency responders say they're ready to act if Florida needs help cleaning up beaches.

For many in southwest Georgia, Florida's gulf shores are like a second home. While the beaches are open, health officials warn those heading south for a weekend getaway or a vacation to get online and check the situation before you go.

As oil and tar balls threaten Florida's white sand beaches, Georgia Emergency Management Officials are cautiously watching.

"We have a mutual aid agreement, throughout the United States. Their our neighbors so naturally we may get called to go help them or assist them with anything," said Chuck Mitchell, Commander Albany/Dougherty Search and Rescue.

That aid, if asked for, could include anything from animal rescue assistance to forklift operators.

"During a disaster you have to off load materials off of tractor trailers and stuff like that so we assist with that so," said Mitchell.

Public health officials worry about the unknown health risks associated with the oil, after cleanup workers experienced flu like symptoms. Local health officials are sounding the alert asking area hospitals and doctors to watch out for any health concerns from people returning from the beaches.

"One or two items may not be a red flag, but 10, 11,12 coming through the door might be a big red flag for us so we're helping to monitor that as far as the health and medical component goes," said Julie Miller, Southwest Georgia Public health Emergency Preparedness Director.

They're issuing a warning to those traveling from southwest Georgia to Florida to check the web sites and be knowledgeable before they get in the car.

"Just please be cognizant of what's going on in that area and listen to the locals. If you get there and someone at the front desk is giving you information that sounds new check it out," said Miller.

They say the right web sites are going to tell you if there are tar balls on the beach, if it's closed, and what the health risks might be.

Public health recommends several good web sites that include information from fishing closures to health concerns.

Right now, all of Florida's beaches are open and there are no health threats reported. Escambia County Commissioners are expected to discuss a resolution, which would ask that local, state and federal governments be allowed to oversee the response and cleanup instead of BP.

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