By Brittany Llorente
BREVARD - Sharks and alligators aren't the only dangers in our local waterways.
With more than 72 miles of coastline, countless pools, ponds and lakes, it's crucial for Brevard County residents to be well-versed in water safety.
In May the warm-water pond at Veteran's Memorial Park in Palm Bay was permanently closed after a nine-month temporary closing, due to the continued risk of primary amebic meningoencephalitis to park swimmers.
The Nagleria ameba, which spreads the amebic menigoencephalitis, thrives in the upper layer of sediment in lakes and ponds with mud floors, enters through a swimmer's nose and can destroy brain tissue.
"Any freshwater pond has the potential (to have amoebas)," said Jack Masson, Brevard County Parks and recreation director. "It is triggered by warmer temperature water and the stirring of the bottom of the pond."
Brevard County Parks and Recreation has two fresh-water areas at Wickham Park in Melbourne and one at Long Point Park on A1A in Melbourne Beach.
These ponds and lakes have no lifeguards and have signs indicating swimming risks.
Brevard's beaches pose their own risks, with rip currents, jellyfish and rough conditions.
Jeff Scabarozi, Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief, said that there are a lot of factors at the beach that can prove dangerous.
"With kids, sometimes in the busier sections, parents may lose sight of their kids," Chief Scabarozi said. "We have a lot of missing kids we've been dealing with lately. We'll find them in five to 30-minute time frames, but they will be a mile or a couple miles down the beach."
He suggests that parents go to one of the county's guarded beaches, and check in with the lifeguards when they arrive to find out the current conditions.
The U.S. Lifeguard Association website states that, since 2007, there have been 15 drowning-related deaths at unguarded beaches and two at the guarded beaches in Brevard County.
For many Brevard County residents, the water risk can be closer to home.
On May 24, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that "drownings are the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4."
Children younger than 5 make up 293 of the 320 deaths that occur annually in the U.S., due to pool or spa-related drownings.
This was the case with a 1-year-old Palm Bay boy who drowned in a backyard swimming pool on May 23.
"Supervision is the No. 1 key to safety," said Cynthia Leckey, environmental supervisor II of the Brevard County Health Department.
"Parents should be teaching their kids swimming lessons, and people in the home should know CPR and first-aid."
For the trained staff at Infant Swimming Resource, their focus is aquatic safety, offering swimming lessons to children 6 months to 6 years old.
Rebecca Pelcher, a certified Infant Swimming Resource instructor, previously served as a lifeguard and a swim instructor at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
"When I became a parent in Brevard County, I learned about Infant Swimming Resource," she said. "The second-highest cause of death for children younger than 5 years old is drowning. I decided to have my son trained."
This motivated her to become an instructor for the program.
"We live in Florida where you are surrounded by water," she said. "Children as young as 6 months can learn to roll over and float, giving parents a chance to save them."
On June 14, the "World's Largest Swimming Lesson" will take place simultaneously around the world. At 11 a.m., swimmers across the nations will participate in a swim lesson. Brevard residents can join in at the Palm Bay Aquatics Center, 420 Community College Parkway, Palm Bay.
The Brevard County Health Department will be there to hand out door alarms.
For more information about the "World's Largest Swimming Lesson," call (321) 952-2232.
For more information about Infant Swimming Resource, visit infantswim.com.