Thousands of families will be heading to the beach this summer for some sun, sand and surf, but a day of family fun can turn into a tragedy in the blink of an eye. Follow these beach safety tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Choose a beach where there are Lifeguards on duty. These people are trained to spot dangerous situations and handle them when they occur. Having said that, they are not babysitters…parents should always be responsible for their children’s safety.
Supervise your children at all times. I imagine that you would rather be sunbathing or reading a good book, but water conditions on large bodies of water can change so quickly and you can’t afford to be lulled into a false sense of security. If your children are young and/or beginner swimmers, they should wear life jackets and be within an arms-length from an adult at all times. Also, remember that inflatable toys and noodles are not reliable safety equipment and should not be counted on to keep your children safe (they are not attached to your child and can easily float away). Even if your children are more experienced swimmers, choose a spot to sit that is close to where they are playing in the water and watch them closely.
Observe any signs re water quality and safety. Before you go in the water, read any posted information with respect to water quality and/or known dangers. Also, if there is a Lifeguard on duty, talk to them to get specifics (known rip currents, undertows, etc.).
Teach your children about the different kinds of water dangers and what to do to protect themselves. Knowing what to look for and what to do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, are truly “life skills”. The three most common dangers are as follows…
Undertow – “a current in the sea or ocean that is below the surface and that moves away from the shore” (Merriam-Webster.com). An undertow may pull swimmers under the water for a short distance (to the next breaking wave), but does not pull them offshore into deeper water. This type of current is the most dangerous to small children who are too small to fight against the pull.
Rip Tide – a strong current caused by tidal flow in confined areas such as inlets. Many use this term and the term ‘rip current’ interchangeably, but they are actually different phenomena. The powerful, reversing current that can be found in inlets, makes them a very dangerous place for even swimmers of advanced skill levels.
Rip Current – a relatively strong, narrow current flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone. Check out the below video to learn more about rip currents and how to escape them.
Before you head to the beach this summer, take a bit of time to prepare yourself and your family – after all, better to be safe than sorry! Now, let’s hit the beach!
If you feel that it is important that your children have basic water skills, you may also want to check out my post on Water Safety.