What do Florida’s Panhandle and Puerto Rico have in common? Both had horrific drowning rates until Lt. Jim McCrady got involved.

He heads up Fort Lauderdale’s Ocean Rescue division. During his tenure as president of the United States Lifesaving Association’s southeast region, he played a key role in starting up five beach patrols across the northwestern part of the Sunshine State.

Before this, beach patrols in the area either did not exist or were woefully undertrained and understaffed. These days, beaches in Oskaloosa and South Walton counties, among other stretches of the Panhandle, are much safer.

Several years ago, McCrady was recruited by Ruperto Chaparro, director of the Sea Grant program at the University of Puerto Rico, to help solve the island’s drowning crisis.

Taking the same approach as he did to the Panhandle problem, McCrady worked alongside Puerto Rican native and current Pompano Beach lifeguard Tony Landrua to help establish guarding operations along some of the island’s most-visited beaches.

Today, McCrady is still involved with Puerto Rico’s drowning-prevention efforts, helping to teach its supervising guards training techniques.