What is the Beach Flag System?
The beach flags provide general warnings about overall surf conditions and do not specifically advise the public of the presence of rip currents. However, increasing awareness of natural conditions which pose a significant risk at the beach, such as rip currents, is a critical element to improve public safety. Florida's beach warning flag program uses flags in four colors accompanied by interpretive signs along the beach to explain the meaning of each color. Our Beach Safety Division evaluates the conditions of our 26 miles of beaches twice a day to determine beach conditions and beach flag determination. Click HERE for more information regarding surf conditions.
How many Fire Stations are there in the District?
We have 5 Fire Stations strategically located throughout the District. Please visit the "Contact Us" Tab for the exact locations.
If there is a leaking fire hydrant on my street, who is responsible for repairing it?
Fire hydrant maintenance is the responsibility of your utility company. Please contact Regional Utilities at 850-231-5114 or South Walton Utilities at 850-837-2988. Periodically, you will see SWFD firefighters placing blue reflective markers in the roadway. At night, it is very difficult for our fire engines to spot fire hydrants placed along the road. The placement of the markers corresponds with the location of the fire hydrant on your street. The blue markers are highly reflective of vehicle lights and make it very easy for our firefighters to immediately find the hydrant's location, even if it is masked by overgrown weeds or shrubbery. These markers assist our firefighters in locating the exact location of the fire hydrants when they are needed.
I am having trouble locating a street or address, can you help?
SWFD maintains a street guide at all fire stations, at the headquarters office, and in emergency vehicles. The guide is updated regularly to include streets in new subdivisions, directions, maps, and address ranges. If you are having trouble locating an address, stop in, call, or send an e-mail, and we'll be glad to help. Please do not use 9-1-1 to get directions. Call the Administrative Office at 850-267-1298 M-F, 9a.m. - 4:30p.m.
What do firefighters do when they are not responding to fire or emergency medical calls?
Firefighters must train in some capacity every day. They are required to train an average of 20 hours in fire related training and 3 hours of emergency medical continuing education each month. Firefighters also perform pre-fire plans and hydrant inspections. Firefighters are responsible for cleaning and maintaining equipment and the fire stations. Occasionally, you may see fire vehicles driving around the District or firefighters touring buildings when there is not an emergency. It is important that firefighters become familiar with the District's streets and neighborhoods as well as businesses. This will save valuable time when responding to an actual emergency. The rest of their time is spent preparing meals, reading and studying, and exercising. They are always alert and prepared to answer emergency calls.
When an emergency vehicle is approaching and is displaying emergency lights and sirens, what should I do?
Please pull to the right and stop. This will allow fire apparatus or other emergency vehicles adequate clearance to safely and promptly continue their response.
Why do the emergency vehicles run with lights and sirens, and then just turn them off?
On occasion, the fire engine and ambulance will be driving with lights and sirens and then suddenly turn them off--perhaps only to turn into a shopping center parking lot or side street. Be assured that when this happens it means we have received information through our 9-1-1 dispatchers that the call or incident is no longer a dire emergency. It is what we call "being cancelled enroute". Any or all of the apparatus may continue to drive to the call or perhaps some will return to the Fire Station
Do the personnel on the ambulance fight fires also?
The personnel assigned to the rescues (ambulances) are also firefighters. All SWFD combat personnel are trained to fight fires, as well as respond to medical calls.
What is South Walton's ISO (Insurance Service Organization) rating?
South Walton's current ISO rating is 3 / 3X split. Traditionally, the insurance industry has utilized a fire protection ISO rating as one of the factors they use in determining commercial and residential fire insurance rates charged to consumers. Ratings of fire departments are administered approximately every 5 years. The rating surveys a variety of factors including water supply infrastructure, types and maintenance of protection equipment, firefighting staffing and training, station locations, dispatching systems, etc. Fire departments are then assigned an ISO rating, beginning with the highest of 1 through the lowest of 10.
South Walton's rating of 3 is designated to our areas that are within 5 miles of one of our fire stations and within 1000 feet of a fire hydrant.
South Walton's rating of 3X is designated to our areas beyond 5 miles from one of our fire stations or beyond 1000 feet from a fire hydrant.
Why do firefighters break windows and cut holes in roofs when the fire is inside a building?
During a structure fire, temperatures inside a structure are often 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. By cutting a hole in the roof and/or breaking out windows, we are ventilating the building. The heat is allowed to escape through these openings thereby making it safer for firefighters to enter the building and apply water directly on the fire. This extinguishing strategy is key to stopping a structure fire quickly, and actually helps minimize damage to other rooms.
What do I need to know concerning wildfire safety in South Walton?
The SWFD works closely with the Division of Forestry to assess and respond to wildfire threats for our area. For more information on our website regarding this subject, please click on Wildfire Safety.
Will the Fire District refill my fire extinguisher?
The Fire District is not licensed to refill fire extinguishers. Please consult your telephone directory's business section under FIRE EXTINGUISHERS or FIRE SYSTEMS to locate the nearest company that can meet your fire extinguisher needs.
What type of fire extinguisher is best for my home?
A multi-purpose fire extinguisher is best for any type of fire commonly found in the home. Look for the rating to be at least 2A:10BC on the label. It will often be labeled A-B-C and may be located at hardware stores or larger multi-purpose retail establishments.
Does the Fire District install and/or inspect child car seats?
Yes, car seat inspection and/or installation is offered. Please call 850-267-1298 for an appointment.
Is outdoor burning allowed?
Yes, open burning is permitted with a Burn Permit. Certain burning permit rules/regulations apply. For more information on Burn Permits, please contact our local Florida Forest Service at 850-373-1800.
Do you provide and install smoke detectors?
Yes, SWFD has a smoke detector program. Eligibility for free detectors is based on financial need. We will gladly visit your home to suggest the best location for your detector. We also install your detector(s) and change batteries as necessary (free of charge) for the physically impaired, seniors, and other persons needing assistance.
How often do I need to change the battery in my smoke detector?
We recommend that residents change the batteries in smoke detectors every six months. A good time to change the batteries is during the spring and fall time changes, "Change your Clock, Change your Batteries"
Am I allowed to barbecue on my condominium or apartment balcony?
No. The burning of charcoal or propane grills within 10 feet of combustible construction, in apartments or multifamily dwellings of more than two units, is not allowed.
Why does a fire engine show up when I call for a medical emergency?
Many times a fire engine will arrive when an ambulance is called because it is the closest emergency vehicle to the scene. The South Walton Fire District is an Advanced Life Support (ALS) First Responder agency and each of its fire stations maintain licensed Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians. By setting up our fire engines to handle all types of calls, including medical emergencies and because of our strategically placed fire stations we can also provide required advanced emergency medical care. Therefore, they can provide whatever aid is necessary until an ambulance arrives.
Will I receive a bill for an ambulance transport to a medical facility?
The answer is yes and no. If you call an ambulance, but do not require treatment or transportation to a hospital, then you will not receive a bill. If, on the other hand, you require treatment and/or transportation to a hospital, then you will recieve a bill. The cost varies depending on the type of treatment given while in the ambulance and the distance to the hospital. Please call our billing agent (FL Billing Service) at 1-866-382-8397 with any additional questions regarding billing.
How can I obtain a copy of an incident report?
There are two different incident reports that are available: one is a fire report; the other an EMS report. A fire report may be picked up at South Walton Fire District Headquarters, 9-1-1 N. County Road 393. You must provide the date and address of the fire. An EMS incident report may also be acquired at South Walton Fire District Headquarters. A medical release form or subpoena is required for anyone (other than the victim) to pick up an EMS report. Otherwise, a valid driver's license is required. Call 850-267-1298 for more information.
What is the "Community Sharps Disposal Program"?
In the home "Sharps" are defined as disposable hypodermic needles, syringes, lancets and other medical devices used for self-injection or blood test, which may have a sharp tip or end. Sharps can be contaminated with Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, and other potentially fatal diseases. Medical waste and Sharps that are thrown away can clog sewer lift stations. Thrown into a trash container, loose in a trash bag, or in unauthorized Sharps containers can injure family members, waste collectors, or inappropriately fall into the hands of children or people with substance abuse. Once in the refuse truck, Sharps containers are likely to break open from the pressure of the trash compactors. Also, many workers run the risk of Sharps contact from trash on sorting floors, in recycling lines, and landfill operations. Take your used Sharps container to any South Walton Fire Station between the hours of 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, 7 days a week. If the fire personnel are not in the station, please do not leave the container unattended. Please return at another time. When you turn in your contaminated container, the fire personnel will dispose of it and replace it with a new container. This service is entirely free of charge. Each of the 5 South Walton Fire Stations is a collection station. The public can receive a new Sharps container free of charge in exchange for their old container.
What is an AED?
The automated external defibrillator (AED) is a computerized medical device. An AED can check a person's heart rhythm. It can recognize a rhythm that requires a shock and can advise the rescuer when a shock is needed. The AED uses voice prompts, lights, and text messages to tell the rescuer the steps to take. AEDs are very accurate and easy to use. Lay rescuers with a few hours of training can operate an AED safely. There are many different brands of AEDs, however the same basic steps operate all AEDs. The South Walton Fire District does not recommend a specific AED.
What is the South Walton Fire District's position on placement of AEDs?
The South Walton Fire District strongly advocates that all EMS first-response vehicles and ambulances be equipped with an AED or another defibrillation device (semiautomatic or manual defibrillator). South Walton Fire District also supports placing AEDs in targeted public areas such as sports arenas, gated communities, office complexes, doctor's offices, shopping areas, etc. When AEDs are placed in a community, the South Walton Fire District strongly encourages that they be part of a defibrillation program in which:
Persons or entities that acquire an AED notify the South Walton Fire District Captain of EMS.
A licensed physician or medical authority provides medical oversight to ensure quality control handled by South Walton Fire District.
Persons responsible for using the AED are trained in CPR and how to use an AED. See AHA website HERE for training classes
Can I have my blood pressure checked at the Fire Station?
Yes. This is a free service offered at all fire stations in the District. Please recognize that our personnel might not be in the station due to emergency calls, fire inspections, or training activities.
What is the difference between an EMT and Paramedic?
The difference between an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and a Paramedic is a significant amount of education. There are different levels of EMT training: EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, EMT-Paramedic. Each level requires more training and education than the prior. The District provides EMT Basic and Paramedic care.
Does the Fire District teach CPR classes?
Yes. To arrange or to inquire about an upcoming class please contact the EMS Captain, Jason Cotton, at 850-267-1298.
When should I call 9-1-1?
9-1-1 is only to be used in emergency situations. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, the fire department or an ambulance. If you are ever in doubt to whether a situation is an emergency you should call 9-1-1. It's better to be safe and let the 9-1-1 call taker determine if you need emergency assistance. If you call 9-1-1 by mistake, do not hang up. Tell the call taker what happened so they know there really isn't an emergency.
What is Enhanced 9-1-1?
Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, is a system which routes an emergency call to the appropriate 9-1-1 center, and automatically displays the caller's phone number and address. The 9-1-1 call taker will ask the caller to verify this information, which appears on his or her computer screen. In Walton County, all 9-1-1 calls are routed to the Walton County Emergency Operations Center and then transferred to the appropriate agency, such as South Walton Fire District.
Why do they ask so many questions when I dial 9-1-1? Why don't they just send help?
The first question a dispatcher will ask when you dial 9-1-1 is: "Police, Fire, or Ambulance?" They need to know this so they can route your call to the proper agency, where specially trained dispatchers (referred to as call-takers) will take over. Be prepared, you will need to provide the address of the emergency, the nature of the emergency, and the phone number you are calling from. As the call-taker is talking to you, they are entering data into a Computer Aided Dispatch system. Another dispatcher reads the information from the computer and radios the information to responders. They dispatch the call very quickly, even while you are answering questions. The call-taker will continue asking you questions about your emergency so they can determine if additional help should be sent, and to provide you with "Pre-Arrival Instructions," such as giving step-by-step instructions on CPR or (as happens more often than you might think) instructions for delivering a baby.
Why is 9-1-1 better than just dialing the 7-digit number for the fire department, police, or ambulance?
When people dial 9-1-1, it may be the most frightening and vulnerable moment of their lives. In such situations, most people have difficulty remembering the phone numbers for the different agencies. Tourists won't know what number to call. Even if you memorized the number for your city or zone, what if you were visiting a friend in, say Miramar Beach; would you know what number to call if they suddenly had a heart attack or the heater caught fire? The 9-1-1 system automatically routes the call to the proper agency based on the jurisdiction of the call. The 9-1-1 system automatically provides the dispatcher with the address where the 9-1-1 call originated. This can be vitally important when the caller is unable to speak or passes out, or if the caller is a child.
Can I use my Cellular Phone to call 9-1-1?
Yes you can, however, your "exact" location will need to be confirmed with the call-taker. Your cellular phone company is required to provide your phones approximate location to 9-1-1. This information is then presented on a computerized map. But again, the call-taker will need to confirm your exact location with you.
What if I want to test my 9-1-1 service or show my child how to use 9-1-1?
It is not uncommon for people to test their phone by calling 9-1-1 or teach their child how to dial 9-1-1 by having them actually call and speak to the dispatcher. While we certainly do not want to discourage anyone from using the 9-1-1 system, these types of non-emergency calls can delay service to emergencies. If you would like to test your phone for 9-1-1 service or show someone how to properly dial 9-1-1, please contact the center using the non-emergency number and advise them of your intentions. If they are not busy, they will gladly assist you.
What if a 9-1-1 caller is deaf, or hearing/speech impaired?
South Walton Fire District has the ability to answer 9-1-1 calls using special telephone software for responding to 9-1-1 calls from deaf or hearing/speech impaired callers.
If a caller uses a TTY/TDD, the caller should:
Stay calm, place the phone receiver in the TTY, dial 9-1-1.
After the call is answered, press the TTY keys several times. This may help shorten the time necessary to respond to the call.
Give the call taker time to connect their TTY. If necessary, press the TTY keys again.
You should be asked what service is needed-police, fire department, or ambulance. Give your name, phone number and the address where help is needed.
Stay on the telephone if it is safe. Answer the call taker's questions.
If a deaf or hearing/speech impaired caller doesn't have a TTY/TDD, the caller should call 9-1-1 and don't hang up. Not hanging up leaves the line open. With most 9-1-1 calls, the caller's address is displayed on the call taker's screen and help will be sent.
Is there a penalty for abuse of 9-1-1?
Yes, it is a first degree misdemeanor to make false 9-1-1 calls and is punishable by up to a $1000 dollar fine or up to one year imprisonment, according to Florida Statute 365.172 (13)
What can I do to help 9-1-1 and Public Safety?
Make sure your house number is clearly posted so that emergency responders can find you quickly. If you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone and you don't know the address, look around for street signs, business signs, and landmarks to help identify your location. If you accidentally call 9-1-1, DON'T HANG UP!! Wait for the 9-1-1 professional to answer and let them know it was an accident.
What is "ICE"?
ICE (In Case of Emergency) has become an international program that began in England around 2005. It encourages people to program emergency contacts into their cell phone address book under the name ICE. Multiple emergency contacts can be listed as ICE1, ICE2, etc. The program is intended to aid emergency responders in quickly contacting next of kin in order to obtain important medical information if you are unable to communicate with them.
How do I report a non-emergency incident? Do I still need to call 9-1-1?
Please call 9-1-1 for any type of fire or medical emergency, or for medical non-emergencies. For other types of calls, call the administrative offices at 850-267-1298.
Why do so many fire trucks respond to simple incidents?
Fire District units are dispatched according to information received by the 9-1-1 call taker. The Fire District responds with adequate resources when they react to a citizen in need of help. In other words, the firefighters are prepared to deal with the worst that could happen. Discovering that we need more units once we arrive is often too late. We have learned from experience that it is better to have too much help than not enough. A structure fire requires a number of people to do all the assigned tasks almost simultaneously. Firefighting teams are assigned certain responsibilities such as fire extinguishment, search and rescue, ventilation, salvage, safety, accountability and rapid intervention teams.
When do South Walton Fire District Lifeguards patrol the beach?
Lifeguards are on patrol at the 8 Tower locations from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM, seven days a week from March 1st through September 30th.
What is a Rip Current?
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore, and can occur at any beach with breaking waves. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards. If caught in a rip current, remember to:
Don't fight the current.
Swim out of the current, then to shore.
Float or tread water if you cannot escape.
If you need help, call or wave for assistance.
How can I identify a Rip Current?
One or more of following features might alert you to the presence of a rip:
darker color, indicating deeper water
murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom
smoother surface with much smaller waves, alongside white water (broken waves)
waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip
debris floating out to sea
a rippled look, when the water around is generally calm
What do I do if I am caught in a Rip Current?
Don't Panic - stay calm.
Float with the current, don't fight it and signal for assistance. If you are a confident swimmer, swim parallel to the shore until you reach the breaking wave zone, then try and swim back to shore.
If you don't think you can swim parallel to the shore away from the rip, stay calm, float with the rip and signal for assistance.
Remember to stay calm and conserve your energy.
What do I do if I see someone is experiencing difficulty in a Rip Current?
Notify a Lifeguard if possible.
Call 9-1-1 with your exact beach location.
If possible get a flotation device to the distressed swimmer, without endangering yourself.
Maintain visual contact with the distressed swimmer.
What do I do if I get stung by a jellyfish?
The Gulf of Mexico is home to some species of jellyfish. However, the dangerous species such as the Man-Of-War are very rare in our area. To help diminish the pain most stings , the easiest and most effective treatment is to rinse the area thoroughly with warm water. Pull any tentacles straight away from the affected area with either tweezers or with your fingers. If you remove tentacles with your fingers, be sure to cover your hand. Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine a couple of hours after exposure can help, if you are not experiencing any signs of an allergic reaction.
Are there a lot of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico?
Yes! But don't worry; they are not interested in you! Here are some helpful tips on sharks and swimming, provided by the Florida Museum of Natural History.The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, but risks should always be minimized whenever possible in any activity.
Are we allowed to walk on the sand dunes?
Please do not walk or play on the dunes, at any time. Never walk on beach vegetation. Always use the designated beach access. Dunes are built slowly over hundreds of years, but are very fragile. They are our primary defense against hurricane damage, and are a shelter for beach wildlife.
Are Sea Turtles protected?
Sea Turtles are an endangered species. They lay their eggs along the Beaches of South Walton. Avoid the use of flashlights near nests in the evening, do not leave beach chairs and other items on the beach overnight (they block the turtles' path), and keep your distance if you see turtles or eggs. Sea turtles are protected by federal and state law and substantial fines and federal imprisonment may result from killing, harming, or even interfering with a sea turtle.
Where can I find a beach wheelchair?
The South Walton Fire District (SWFD) in partnership with the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC), continually explore strategies to enhance the beach going experience. Through the Beach Safety and Education Program, our beaches are safer, but many visitors face hurdles to enjoy the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The beach wheelchairs are located at the following beach accesses: Pompano Joe's (Miramar Beach), Ed Walline Park (Santa Rosa Beach), VanNess Butler (Seaside/Watercolor), Bramble Grove (Seagrove Beach) and Inlet Beach from 10:30 a.m. until 5.30 p.m. daily, through the lifeguard season which is from March 1st until September 30th.
Each chair must operated by an on-duty lifeguard. A beach wheelchair waiver must be signed by the beach wheelchair patron or their caregiver. It is requested that the beach patron limit the usage of the beach wheelchair to the beach area in the immediate area of the public beach access. In order to facilitate the possible need for multiple patrons, it is required that the beach patron's personal chair be used once the patron has reached their beach location, so that the wheelchair may be ready for the next person's use.
Does South Walton Fire District provide pre-construction meetings?
Yes. The South Walton Fire District highly recommends that you have a pre-construction meeting with the Fire District so everyone understands the fire inspection requirements. Any questions may be answered at this time.
What if I have a question that needs an answer or interpretation?
The project supervisor/foreman may contact the SWFD Fire Marshal at 850-267-1298. Please note that interpretations will not be given out over the phone. This is necessary to ensure that all parties involved have information in writing, so as to avoid delays in your projects.
Why is a review of the Site Plan important?
The site plan (blueprint) is reviewed before the first block is laid for a newly constructed building or buildings. During this review, we ensure the proposed building or buildings are properly located on the site, in terms of a "fire exposure" point of view. The site plan review also ensures that a water supply is available and that fire engines will have adequate access to the building. This review can help determine if additional fire hydrants or a sprinkler system is required.
What is the purpose of reviewing the Building Permit Plan?
Proposed building plans (blueprints) are reviewed to ensure that the building meets two main categories, "Means of Egress Requirements" and "Protection Requirements" as per the Florida Fire Prevention Code. Before those requirements can be determined, the purpose of the building, whether its use will be residential or for storage must be established since different types of buildings have different safety requirements.
What does the Means of Egress Requirements include?
This includes determining the maximum capacity for the building, along with the type and number of exits needed.
What is covered under Fire Protection Requirements?
This includes fire barriers, such as walls, floors, columns or other fire-rated construction. Other fire protection systems include fire alarm, smoke detection and fire sprinkler systems.
What is the process of a New Building Inspection?
The inspection of a new building is the lengthy portion of the new construction approval process. During plan review, the fire safety requirements are identified and inspected to determine if all components of the fire protection system, from fire-rated walls to sprinkler and alarm systems, are constructed and installed correctly. This process requires numerous visits from fire inspectors throughout the building process, along with cooperation between the fire inspector, the plans reviewer and the contractor. Once the building is complete, the fire inspector will determine that all fire safety aspects of the structure have passed inspection and a final approval from the Fire District will be granted.
What is an Impact Fee?
The South Walton Fire District provides fire and medical services prior to your property coming onto the tax roles. Impact fees are paid by anyone building a residential or commercial structure in South Walton.
The new calculations will be as follows: Residential, new structures, are $0.15 per square foot with a minimum of $300.00. Residential additions are $0.15 per square foot with no minimum. Commercial (to include multi-family residential dwellings), new structures, are calculated at $0.50 per square foot with a $1,000.00 minimum. Commercial, additions are calculated at $0.50 per square foot with no minimum.
What are the collected fees used for?
The District may only utilize impact fee revenue on those items that are a result of the expansion of our service needs; i.e., new equipment, vehicles, or facilities.