ALEA shares play-by-play of safety this Labor Day weekend

Published 3:06 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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Special to the Advance

For most, the Labor Day holiday weekend marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall and football season in the great state of Alabama. Whether you are planning to seek relief from the heat at the lake or the beach, traveling to see friends and family, or celebrating a collegiate kickoff, safety should be a hot topic for everyone this upcoming weekend.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Hal Taylor said, “We fully understand this is an exciting weekend in which many will be traveling or enjoying the state’s scenic waterways. As we anticipate a high volume of traffic on both our roadways and waterways, we want to remind everyone to

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plan ahead, allow yourself ample time to reach your destination and exercise considerate driving behavior towards other drivers and boaters. A little courtesy can go along way when driving on a busy road or operating a vessel in a crowded area. Part of ALEA’s winning strategy this season is to share educational opportunities, conduct high-visibility details and provide quality service, as well as protection, ensuring everyone returns home safely to their loved ones.”

This year, the official holiday travel period begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1, and will end at midnight on Monday, Sept. 4. The Agency is preparing for the four-day weekend by sharing a variety of helpful safety reminders via social media and holding media days at six locations across the state prior to the official travel period. ALEA’s Highway Patrol Division has already kicked off the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, which started Wednesday, Aug. 16 and runs through Monday, Sept. 4. The national initiative fuels high-visibility enforcement details and numerous driver license checkpoints across the state. To take it a step further this year, ALEA is joining law enforcement partners across the southeast to participate in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “No DUI Friday” in an effort to focus on impaired driving.

“We want everyone to understand that our top priority is to keep citizens safe by enforcing the state’s laws,” said Director of ALEA’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), Colonel Jon Archer. “The Drive Sober and No DUI Friday campaign is an awareness effort to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal and is a senseless decision that can dramatically change or even take a life in the blink of an eye. We are asking everyone to be responsible and plan accordingly, especially if you will be consuming alcoholic beverages, we need your help protecting our communities.”

In addition to the congested holiday and gameday traffic, ALEA Troopers are also keeping a close eye on Hurricane Idalia and preparing for any evacuees who may seek refuge in Alabama.

“The storm is forecasted to hit the Big Bend of Florida on Wednesday; however, we are factoring in that those who evacuate to Alabama may be on the roadways returning home over the extended holiday weekend. We will have all available Troopers working throughout the week and Labor Day holiday to assist our citizens as well as those who travel from Florida,” said ALEA Highway Patrol Chief Will Wright.

As Hurricane Idalia is expected to push to our east, the forecast looks to remain clear for a majority of the state over the holiday weekend, in which boaters and beachgoers can expect to enjoy beautiful weather and a decreased risk of strong rip currents along Alabama’s gulf coast. However, the Agency would like to remind citizens and visitors that a small change in the weather, such as a large thunderstorm can quickly change the rip current forecast. We encourage everyone visiting the beach to check daily weather and surf conditions from a trusted source. Alabama Weather advisories may be accessed here.

Once more, beachgoers can expect to see one of the Agency’s helicopters flying overhead during the busy Labor Day weekend. Beginning in 2022, ALEA’s Aviation Unit partnered with first responders in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to conduct a Rescue Swimmer Detail over the course of the three extended holiday weekends in the summer season: Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. During these specific details, responders are deployed from the aircraft to swimmers in distress. This weekend, the Agency will once again utilize an aircraft to conduct beach safety flights and patrol in areas where lifeguards are not available.

All available Troopers within ALEA’s Marine Patrol Division will also be ready to assist not only those boating near the coast but across all of our state’s major waterways.

“No matter what time of year it is, everyone should have a safety checklist to ensure everything on the vessel is in proper working order such as navigation lights, fire extinguishers and they should have Coast Guard-approved PFDs that fit properly,” said ALEA Marine Patrol Chief Steve Thompson. “Know the navigation rules of the water, never operate a vessel while impaired and please be courteous. This weekend there will be a wide variety of aquatic activities from water sports and paddle boats to fishermen and swimmers. Let’s all do our part and keep the waterways safe for all to enjoy.”

This Labor Day, ALEA is also partnering with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to help inform the public about water quality and fish advisories in local areas. Troopers in ALEA’s Marine Patrol Division will assist in distributing cards that feature a QR code which will take users to the water quality site on ADEM’s website when scanned. There, they will find links to fish consumption advisories listed by location, maps that note any recent sewer spill or accidental discharge, as well as maps of beach monitoring sites that provide the latest water quality testing results.

“We are delighted and grateful to partner with ALEA in providing this important water quality information to the public to help safeguard their health,” said ADEM Director Lance LeFleur. “We want everyone using or planning to use the state’s beaches or waterways, whether fishing, swimming or boating, to be able to get the latest updates on fish advisories, beach monitoring, wastewater discharges and sewer spills or overflows. That information is easily accessible to anyone with a smart device.”

“Alabama has wonderful water resources and we are proud to partner with a fellow state agency to help share those resources with a combined goal of keeping everyone safe,” Secretary Taylor said. “We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend this Labor Day.”

Click HERE to view all safety tips and ALEA’s Summer of Safety Playbook. To access ADEM’s Fish Consumption Advisory Map, click HERE.