Whether it’s visiting the coastal shorelines or just down to the local lake, nothing is better than a sandy beach. When one pictures the beach they may think about the sun warmed sand, cool waters, building sand castles, and playing in the waves, but do they think about safety? An accident or other mishap can turn a happy day into a terrible one quickly. Learning to respect your surroundings and what to watch for is key.
Knowing simple first aid, personal care, how to read water signs, whom to turn to in an emergency and other guidelines can make your beach visit a safe one. Swimming is fun and good exercise, but be sure to follow some general safety guidelines. Many swimming deaths are due to the fact that people have not learned to swim. Most towns offer swimming lessons or parents can teach their kids, but children should always be taught to swim and it is just as important for adults. Even with swimming lessons, it is important to keep an eye on children. Other smart choices are to swim where a lifeguard is present and have floatation devices for little ones, but remember, while they are great precautions, don’t rely on them solely.
- Child Safe Living Safely When Near the Water.
- U.S. Army Water Safety Educational information.
- Pueblo Colorado Water safety – Includes: swimming, riptide, water safety and water craft information.
We should always obey the lifeguard’s rules, they are there to keep us safe and they are who we should turn to in an emergency, but while a lifeguard knows what dangers to look for and how to pull a person to safety, it is up to the swimmer to educate themselves. Be aware of tides, waves and currents, which can easily pull a swimmer down or sweep them off of their feet, even in just a few inches of water. Don’t swim out too far and watch for other swimmers, even a good swimmer can run into trouble. It is important to never swim alone; swimming partners can keep an eye out for one another.
Remember to take care of your body, it is important to stay hydrated, so be sure to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, but drinking alcoholic beverages is never a good mix when at the beach. Wear sunscreen and watch where you walk both in and out of the water. It’s not uncommon to step into holes that have been dug into the sand, step on sharp coral or objects, (which is why glass should never be brought to the beach) and watch out for small creatures that may share the beach with you. There may also be unseen drop offs or sand bars, which can slip you into deep water in a single step. It’s never a bad idea to have some simple first aid items like an antibiotic and some bandages on hand to care for any little mishaps.
Many swimming areas post warning signs and use buoys or flags to tell swimmers what to do, where to swim, and what dangers there may be. It is important to learn what each of them means. If swimming in an unmarked swimming area, always watch for boats, skiers and other watercraft that may be crossing into the swimming area. Swimming in the ocean has much different hazards than a lake or pool, one must be aware of the sea life. Jellyfish are sometimes mistaken for floating pieces of clothing or can bump into people as they swim, sharks can also be found in swim areas, as can sharp coral or high ridges of rock and some areas can have dangerous riptides that must be avoided. A swimmer can be swept away or pulled into deep waters very quickly in such waters.
- Ocean Watch Susan Scott, Marine Science writer’s article on Riptide safety.
- National Weather Service Rip current safety page.
- Pensacolas Greatest warning flags for Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, which includes Pensacola beach.
- American Red Cross Beach warning flags – visuals with descriptions.
Fortunately, we have many resources we can turn to for water safety tips. Most dangers associated with going to the beach can be avoided, do your research. Be sure to only swim in permitted areas, do not dive into shallow water, and never put yourself into a dangerous situation just because someone else has decided to do something foolish. Always know your limits, don’t allow yourself to be stuck in deep water and find yourself without enough energy to swim. Sometimes it’s better to take a break if you think you are getting even a little worn out. Even though most areas that are difficult to swim in are marked, if you are suddenly caught in a current don’t try to fight it, just swim with it until you can make your way safely to shore. Trying to swim against the current will only exhaust you.
By being prepared and educated, you can have a wonderful day at the beach!
- US Coast Guard Downloadable water safety-coloring books.
- Bobber the water safety dog – Games, cartoons, color pages and more!
- Kids Health Water safety pages focused on teens.