Beach Safety 101

High profile beach and surf accidents in the news are a good reminder that the lazy days of summer are no time to get lazy about water safety. Keep your family safe at the shore this vacation season by following these tips:

1. Know your family’s swimming strengths and skill-levels.
Swimming in the ocean requires more strength and skill than swimming in a pool. So-so swimmers may struggle when confronted with waves and currents, so unless you feel confident that you or a member of your family can handle the surf, stick to the shoreline.

2. Use the buddy system.
The old chestnut your day camp counselor preached before every free swim session still holds true. Never go swimming alone, especially in the ocean.

3. Stay in sight of the lifeguard.
Lifeguards are there for a reason, and it’s not just to hang out on a chair looking hot in a swimsuit. When swimming at the beach, go when there’s a lifeguard on duty and stick to the area between the flags.

4. Learn the meaning of the Beach Warning Flags.
Double Red = The beach is closed to the public

Single Red = High hazard (high surf and/or strong currents)

Yellow = Medium hazard (moderate surf and/or currents)

Green = Low hazard (exercise caution)

Purple = Dangerous marine life (but not sharks). Flown with either Red or Yellow.

5.  Understand rip currents.
Rip currents, often mistakenly referred to as “rip tides” or “undertow,” are very strong currents of water that can be as long as 2500 feet but are generally no wider than 30 feet. These powerful narrow currents move along the surface of the sea and usually occur at the points of the shoreline where the ocean is deepest. Rip currents can sometimes be seen from shore, when they interfere with the ebb and flow of a wave. Once you get caught in one, it can be extremely difficult to get out, especially for a weaker swimmer. To escape a rip current, curb your instinct to swim against it and head to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the beach rather than directly toward it. Eventually you’ll swim out of the current and will be able to turn and swim to shallower water.

6. Pack a cell phone in your beach bag.
Should you or someone nearby be in need of help, it’s always a good idea to be connected. Stick the phone in your bag along with your SPF and hope you don’t need to use it.

Sources: National Weather Service, Pacific Disaster Center

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