Drama during routine check proves importance of Coast Guard's pre-hurricane maintenance

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We are 12 days into hurricane season and the Coast Guard is playing a crucial role in making sure Tampa Bay is ready.

Crews are checking all the signals in the channel to Port Tampa Bay, making sure they are working and can withstand the worst of a storm.

Fuel tankers lined up in the Gulf of Mexico to enter the channel after Hurricane Irma swept by. Almost half, 47%, of the fuel Florida uses comes through the channel, which is why the work done Wednesday by the U.S. Coast Guard is so important

At the start of hurricane season, and after a major storm, they have to check and maintain every single signal, which is crucial for ships and smaller boats’ navigation systems.

They are making sure the lights work, batteries are charged, and they will not blow away during hurricane-force winds.

The crew took FOX 13 News on a ride-along to see the crucial work they do. While an officer was checking a signal, the platform gave way and the reason for their work instantly came into focus.

“Man overboard, man overboard!” they all began to yell, scrambling to reel him back in.

Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt. The crew reacted as trained and he was pulled to safety in under 20 seconds. They pulled what was left of the platform out of the water to be replaced.

“That scenario right there is why we service these aids as often as we do, because they are out in the elements, they are out in the salt water,” a crewmember said.

The rotted platform would have broken apart just as quickly during a major hurricane, serving as a scary reminder, while the work they are doing might seem simple, it makes a difference.

This particular Coast Guard crew is responsible for inspecting 1,400 signals from Tampa Bay all the way down to Fort Myers.