Going To The Beach
Updated: Oct 18, 2018
Why do people need to be not only safe in the water, but on the beach as well? Everyone should have as much fun as possible while staying safe. Playing football with friends is great, but not in the middle of a huge crowd of children building sandcastles. Be respectful of others as you would anywhere else and everyone will be able to enjoy a day at the beach.
How should we prepare for a day at the beach? Think of a day at the beach as an athletic event: You need to be in shape to handle the conditions (often hot and hopefully sunny); you need to have the proper protective equipment to play in the game (including sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and cover-ups for the kids to name a few); and you need to eat and drink well (a good breakfast and plenty of water).
What are some of the most common injuries on the beach and how can they be avoided? The most serious medical injuries lifeguards see are spinal cord injuries, often caused by people diving into the surf. Always enter the water feet first. Waves are powerful forces that can cause injury if a person dives through with their head in the wrong position.
Other common injuries include fractures and dislocations caused by falls because of the uneven surface of the sand. Scrapes and cuts and other minor injuries are commonplace among the vacationing public.
Ocean currents: What should we know about them? And what about rip currents? Rip currents are currents of water flowing away from the beach and are responsible for 80 percent of all water rescues. Most often caused by breaks in sandbars or obstacles in the water (piers and jetties), they can be short and powerless or become very strong and extend for hundreds of feet depending on the surf, wind and tide conditions. Rip currents are hard to recognize while in the water, often it requires a view from a height, (lifeguard stands for instance), but people can feel them well enough.
Swim near a lifeguard: The chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. Never put yourself in danger by swimming out past where it is safe because a life guard will come after you to make sure you are safe. This in fact will put less eyes on the rest of the beach goers because that lifeguard now must come after you.
Never swim alone: Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you.
Don’t fight the current: Most rescues by lifeguards at ocean beaches are caused by rip currents. These currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Wave for help if you need help to get back to shore especially if you are not a strong swimmer. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.
Swim sober: Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Perhaps more importantly, both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.
Don’t float where you can’t swim: Non-swimmers often use floatation devices, like inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. Use of a leash is not enough because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the floatation device, even with a leash. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
Who should wear life vests? On the beach, anyone who cannot swim should not be in the water above the waist with or without a flotation device. A surf environment is a dynamic environment that can change by the minute. Everyone should stay close to the shore and follow the lifeguard’s direction on how far they should go out in the water.
Are flotation devices suitable for the beach? Parents may feel safer because their children have a vest on, but there is no substitute for parents watching their children every second and always accompanying them into the water.
In conclusion: Just remember the ocean is a powerful body of water and can become dangerous very quickly especially when swimming where there are no lifeguards. If no swimming signs are up that means conditions are too dangerous to enter the water. Protect yourself and your family from serious harm because no one is drown proof that includes lifeguards that may have to come out and save you.