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From the Lifeguard’s Perspective: Beach Safety

Sun’s out and it’s heating up. Solution? The beach! But before running straight into the water, know some beach safety – how to keep your kids safe, how to deal with riptides, and other tips to avoid unnecessary tragedies. Knowing how to swim in a pool is VERY different than swimming at a beach, so make sure your kid knows the differing rules.



Learn to swim: Having your kids learn formal swimming will greatly reduce the likelihood of drowning or passing out underwater. However, surveillance of your kids will allow for even better protection atop them knowing how to swim. If your kids want to be in the water, but don’t know how to swim, put them in a life jacket, and join them in the water. Never leave them unsupervised.

Swim near a lifeguard: First off, some beaches do not have active lifeguards on duty. Before you head to the beach, know if your beach has lifeguards on duty. Second, choose to swim closer to a lifeguard. If an incident does occur, they’re more likely to see you and respond quicker than if your kids were playing at the edge of their scanning zone. If there is no lifeguard near a certain area, then there are probably hidden dangers, such as drop-offs, currents, or piers/docks. Never swim near piers or docks, as rip currents occur there constantly.

Don’t dive in: Most beaches have poor visibility, so never dive head first into the water. Wade in slowly to assure good footing. Even in shallow water, waves can cause people to lose their footing, especially small children and elderly people.

Swim with a buddy: Many drowning incidents occur to single swimmers. It’s always better to have someone else with you when you’re swimming so they know exactly where you are if you need help or can call for help. At least have someone watching you from ashore.

Know the flags: Know the difference between the flag colors. This will dictate whether the water is safe or not to enter.

Know the terrain: Know where there are drop-offs, currents, and other hidden obstacles to avoid along your beach. That’ll dictate where and where not to swim.

Take breaks: Taking breaks from water fun is good because it’ll give you a time to re-apply sunscreen and give your kids a drink so they don’t dehydrate themselves. Especially with younger kids, have them wear a shirt to cover them up more than just sunscreen, which will probably just wash off.

Avoid sea life: As cute as turtles may be, let them be. Do not let your kids touch any plants or animals because you won’t always be sure what is poisonous or not. If you see an injured or stranded animal, call for a lifeguard for them to alert local authorities to take care of it in a more professional manner.

Rip Currents

Many people don’t know how to react when they suddenly feel the rough pull of a rip current. Rip current can form in any open water area, such as in low spots, breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as piers or docks.

Stay calm and don’t fight against the current. You’ll just tire yourself out, which is more dangerous than trying to fight against it.

Swim parallel to the shore. Continue until you are out of the rip current, and then start swimming toward the shore.

If you cannot swim toward the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the current, and then head to the shore.

If both methods fail, make yourself visible. Wave your arms around (without expending all of your energy) and call for help.

In order to avoid rip currents, stay at least 100 feet from structures as rip currents constantly exist near these places.

If you see someone in trouble, alert the closest lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard on duty, call 911. Alert the victim how to escape the current if they do not know how, and throw them something floatable for them to hang on to.

Spending a day at the beach is supposed to be enjoyable, but having an incident can turn your fun beach day into a traumatic experience. Stay safe, and teach your kids safety rules for the beach so that everyone can have fun. Note where there are lifeguards, watch out for sea life, avoid rip currents, and take many breaks to stay hydrated and protected from the sun.

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