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University Police Department

University Police Department

Crime Prevention: Animals/Environmental





Lightning—The Underrated Killer

Extreme Heat 

Cold Weather   



What to do During a Wildfire



Flooding and Fire Ants


Wild animals are an ever present fact of life at FGCU. The University is located adjacent to a large undeveloped land area to the east, which is a habitat for many wild animals. Many animals presently live on or near the campus, so the chances that you might “bump” into one of Florida’s original residents are quite high. Most of these encounters will be uneventful, but the chance is there that you might come across a dangerous animal.  It is not at all unusual to find some animals living on campus that you need to keep a distance from.

In all dealing with animals, it is important to remember a few things. First, if you don’t know what it is, don’t approach. What may appear as a friendly creature, might strike out at you. Wild animals, when they feel cornered, can become violent. They have no idea you are simply curious. They just want to get away and hide. It is okay to watch an animal, but just do it at a safe distance.
Second, never feed a wild animal. Feeding a wild animal is not only dangerous, but it can be illegal, and in the worse case the animal may have to be destroyed.


Alligators can be found in virtually every body of water on campus, and are normally shy creatures. They will flee from humans when approached. But when fed by people, they lose that fear and associate people with food. An alligator that has lost the fear of man can be extremely dangerous, and can approach you looking for food. There are numerous cases in Florida where alligators have attacked people or pets because they have lost the fear of man.

Be aware of the possibility of alligator attacks when in or near fresh or brackish waterbodies. Attacks may occur when people do not pay close enough attention to their surroundings when working or
recreating near water.

  • Do not swim outside of posted swimming areas or in waters that might be inhabited by large alligators.
  • Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, swim only during daylight hours.
  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators.
  • Never feed or entice alligators – it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.


 Many people have an uncontrollable fear of snakes. Perhaps because man is an animal who stands upright, he has developed a deep rooted aversion to all crawling creatures. And, too, snakes long have been used in folklore to symbolize falseness and evil. The ill-starred idea has no doubt colored human feelings regarding snakes.
Whatever the reason for disfavor, they nonetheless occupy a valuable place in the fauna of the region. On the plus side, snakes help keep in check rodents that threaten crops and, not uncommonly, carry diseases that afflict man.

Of the 44 species of native snakes in Florida, only six are venomous. These are readily recognized by anyone who will take the time to learn a few distinctive field marks.
There are two types of venomous snakes in Florida. The Crotalidae, or pit vipers, and the Elapidae.

  • The pit vipers are identified by facial pits, one located between the eye and nostril on each side of the head. The elliptical eye pupil and broad, roughly V-shaped head are the other identifying features of this group. Included in the family are the diamondback rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, and the cottonmouth. The venom of these snakes is haemotoxic, that is, it destroys the red blood cells and the wall of the blood vessels of the victim.
  • The Elapidae, represented in Florida by the coral snake, have neurotoxic venom. This attacks the nervous system of a victim, bringing on paralysis.
  • The eastern diamondback is the largest and most dangerous of our native snakes. Its’ large body size, quantity of venom, aggressive defensive tactics, and tremendous striking speed make this snake one to be treated with extreme caution. The effective striking distance is from one-third to more than one-half the length of the snake’s body. The snake does not have to be coiled to strike-it can strike from any position and in any direction. When disturbed it generally, but not always, sounds a warning rattle. It may attain a body length of over eight feet, but it is rare to find one over seven feet. Newly born rattlers are equipped with venom and fangs, and can bite.
  • The pigmy rattlesnake, also called the ground rattler, is found in every county in Florida. Its rattle is small and slender and produces a sound like the buzzing of an insect. This sound can be heard no more than a few feet away. Most pigmy rattlers measure less than 18 inches in length. This snake has a feisty disposition, and is quick to strike. While its bite can be fatal to humans under certain circumstances, no deaths from the bite of this species have been recorded.
  • The cottonmouth moccasin is a pit viper without rattles. It grows to a large size, exceeding five feet in length, but most often averages three feet. When disturbed it draws into a loose coil, cocks its head upwards and opens its mouth to reveal the whitish interior lining, hence the name cottonmouth. It has a quick strike and can bite from any position, even in water. It usually will hold onto its prey and will “chew” to drive its fangs in to deliver venom. It is an unpredictable snake- some are calm while others can be very aggressive. These snakes love the water and are often found in or near any source of water. With immediate and proper medical treatment, the bite is only occasionally fatal to humans.
  • The coral snake has the most potent venom of any snake in North America. It is closely related to the cobra, krait, and mamba. It is a shy and secretive, seldom aggressive unless startled, tormented or injured. It has short fangs, and delivers its venom with a chewing motion. Coral snakes are often confused with the harmless scarlet kingsnake, which it closely resembles. They are brightly colored with red, black and yellow bands. A helpful rhyme goes, “red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, good for Jack”. The red rings of a coral borders the yellow rings. The red of the kingsnake borders the black. Coral snakes are slender bodied and average 24 inches in length. The largest on record measured 47 inches.


 Florida is home to millions of residents who enjoy the state's beautiful scenery and warm climate. But few people realize that these qualities also create severe wildfire conditions. Each year, thousands of acres of wildland and many homes are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time of the year from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and debris burning. Adding to the fire hazard is the growing number of people living in new communities built in areas that were once wildland. This growth places even greater pressure on the state's wildland firefighters. As a result of this growth, fire protection becomes everyone's responsibility.

What to do During a Wildfire

Survival in a Vehicle

  • This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive the firestorm if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot.
  • Roll up windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  • If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Roll up windows and close air vents.
  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
  • Stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes.
  • Stay in the car. Do not run! Engine may stall and not restart. Air currents may rock the car. Some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle. Temperature inside will increase. Metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.

If You Are Trapped at Home

  • Stay calm.
  • As the fire front approaches, go inside the house.
  • You can survive inside.
  • The fire will pass before your house burns down.

If Caught in the Open

  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse fuel area. On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons, natural "chimneys" and saddles.
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road cut or in the ditch on the uphill side. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire's heat.
  • If hiking in the back country, seek a depression with sparse fuel. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes!


Lightning—The Underrated Killer


In the United States, there are an estimated 25 million lightning flashes each year. During the past 30 years, lightning killed an average of 66 people . This is more than the average of 65 deaths per year caused by tornadoes. Yet because lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property, it is underrated as a risk. While documented lightning injuries in the United States average about 300 per year, undocumented injuries likely much higher.

  • Watch for Developing Thunderstorms: Thunderstorms are most likely to develop on spring or summer days but can occur year round. As the sun heats the air, pockets of warmer air start to rise and cumulus clouds form. Continued heating can cause these clouds to grow vertically into towering cumulus clouds, often the first sign of a developing thunderstorm.
  • An Approaching Thunderstorm:
  • When to Seek Safe Shelter : Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from area where it is raining. That's about the distance you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately.
  • Use the 30-30 rule: where visibility is good and there is nothing obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count the seconds until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within 6 miles and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately. The threat of lightning continues for much longer than most people realize. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before leaving shelter. Don't be fooled by sunshine or blue sky! If it is cloudy or objects such as building or mountains are obscuring your vision, get inside immediately. It is always safer to take precautions than to wait.
  • Outdoor Activities: Minimize the Risk of Being Struck: Most lightning deaths and injuries occur in the summer. Where organized outdoor sports activities take place, coaches, camp counselors and other adults must stop activities at the first roar of thunder to ensure everyone time to get a large building or enclosed vehicle. Leaders of outdoors events should have a written plan that all staff are aware of and enforce.
  • Indoor Activities: Things to Avoid: Inside building, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity or plumbing. Buy ground fault protectors for key equipment. Follow the 30-30 rule and stop activities at the first clap thunder and wait 30 minutes until after the last thunder strike.
  • Helping a Lightning Strike Victim: If a person is struck by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike. You are in no danger helping a lightning victim. The charge will not affect you.
  • Summary: Lightning is dangerous. With common sense, you can greatly increase your safety and the safety of those you are with. At the first clap of thunder, go a large building or fully enclosed vehicle and wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder to back outside.


When is Hurricane Season?

June 1 - November 30

What Is A Hurricane?

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone, which generally forms in the tropics and is accompanied by thunderstorms and a counterclockwise circulation of winds. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:

An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds* of 38 mph or less

An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph

An intense tropical weather system of strong thunderstorms with a well-defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or higher

STORM SURGE - is water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more.

INLAND FLOODING - In the last 30 years, inland flooding has been responsible for more than half the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States.

HIGH WINDS - Hurricane-force winds can destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, and small items left outside become flying missiles in hurricanes.

TORNADOES - Hurricanes can produce tornadoes that add to the storm's destructive power. Tornadoes are most likely to occur in the right-front quadrant of the hurricane.

When is a HURRICANE WATCH is issued for my part of the coast what does this indicate?

The possibility that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your family's disaster plan, and proactive measures should be initiated especially those actions that require extra time such as securing a boat, leaving a barrier island, etc.

When is HURRICANE WARNING is issued for my part of the coast, what does this indicate?

That sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours. Once this warning has been issued, your family should be in the process of completing proactive actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm.

  • Have a family disaster plan and disaster supply kit. 
  • Build or identify a Safe-Room in your Home 
  • Purchase and use a NOAA Weather Radio in your home with a tone alert feature. This will allow you to receive warnings issued by your local National Weather Service office. 
  • Inquire if your Community is StormReady.

Extreme Heat

What Is A Heat Wave?

A heat wave is an extended time interval of abnormally and uncomfortably hot and unusually humid weather. To be a "heat wave" such a period should last at least one day, but conventionally it lasts from several days to several weeks.

What Is The Heat Index?

The heat index is the "APPARENT TEMPERATURE" that describes the combined effect of high air temperature and high humidity. The higher this combination, the more difficult it is for the body to cool itself. If you work outdoors, it is critical that you remain aware of the heat index and take the appropriate precautions.

  • NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS IN A PARKED CAR: The temperature can raise to 135 degrees in less than ten minutes, which can cause death to children or pets. If you see a child or pet left unattended in a parked car, you should call 9-1-1 and alert authorities.
  • SLOW DOWN.  Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day.  Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.  
  • DRESS FOR SUMMER.  Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps your body maintain normal temperatures.  
  • DRINK PLENTY OF WATER  Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, (2) are on fluid restrictive diets, or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids.  
  • DON'T TAKE SALT TABLETS UNLESS SPECIFIED BY A PHYSICIAN  Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.   
    Spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, spending some time each day (during hot weather) in an air conditioned environment affords some protection.  
  • Don't get too much sun.  Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.

Flooding is one of Florida's most frequent hazards.

What is your Community's flood risk?

There are different reasons a community may flood; storm surge, river flooding or heavy rainfall. Low-lying or poorly drained areas can also increase a community's flood risk. To protect yourself, learn what flood threats affect your community.

  • Determine if there are rivers or creeks that flood frequently. 
  • Is your home located in a low-lying area? 
  • Determine your home's elevation.

Due to the relatively flat terrain across Florida, it is complicated to drain accumulated water. When rivers rise, water tends to spread out far from riverbanks. In the case of the 1997-98 El Niño floods, rising rivers and repeated periods of heavy rainfall combined to pool water over land miles away from rivers. In fact, normally small rivers turned into vast lakes.
Pooling of water poses a significant risk, not as much from swift moving water, but more from one’s inability to judge water depth. Water only inches deep can be next to water that is several feet deep.

Safety Tip: Flooding and Fire Ants

 During flooding conditions, colonies of fire ants are capable of floating in clusters or "rafts," posing a threat to anything encountering them.
After flooding, be cautious as you lift objects. Fire ants can be under anything – from under rocks to old wood or debris on the ground. They can even enter structures through tiny cracks and crevices after a flood. If you are stung, rub off ants briskly. Anyone with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an EpiPen (epinephrine auto injector) and wear medical identification stating their allergy.

Is Cold Weather a Threat in the Sunshine State?

YES. During the harsh winter of 1989-1990, 26 Floridians died of hypothermia. Because of normally mild temperatures, Florida homes often lack adequate heating and insulation and the Florida outdoor lifestyle leads to danger for those not prepared. In addition to the actual temperature, when the wind blows, a wind chill (the temperature that it feels like) is experienced on exposed skin. When freezing temperatures, or low wind chills are expected, the National Weather Service will issue warnings or advisories.

  • Stay indoors and use safe heating sources.
  • Be aware of the fire danger from space heaters and candles, keep such devices away from all flammable materials such as curtains and furniture, and install recommended smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Indoors, do not use charcoal or other fuel-burning devices, such as grills that produce carbon monoxide. Install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor in your home.
  • Outdoors, stay dry and in wind protected areas.
  • Wear multiple layers of loose-fitting, warm clothing.
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and eat high-caloric foods.