With the unofficial start to summer kicking off this weekend and a potential subtropical system forming offshore, the American Red Cross has tips to help keep swimmers safe from dangerous rip currents when visiting the beach.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore; they can occur at any beach with breaking waves. Rip currents are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers; however, they have the potential to pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea.
While the system is still far from land, storms that don’t reach shore can cause strong rip currents along the beach posing dangers for swimmers.
The Red Cross advises anyone taking a trip this weekend to swim on lifeguard-protected beaches if possible, within the designated swimming areas. Stay alert and check the local weather conditions; the National Weather Service provides rip current forecasts. If a storm approaches, immediately evacuate the beach.
The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents exceeds 100. Rip currents account for more than 80% of rescues performed by beach lifeguards.
If caught in a rip current, remember the following:
- · Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- · Never fight against the current.
- · Swim out of the current in a direction parallel the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore.
- · If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore.
- · If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
- · Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard, or dial 9-1-1 if a lifeguard is not available. Throw the victim something that floats, such as a lifejacket, cooler or inflatable ball. Yell instructions on how to escape the current. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
With hurricane season approaching, it is critically important to take safety precautions when swimming at the beach. For more information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe during your shore trip, visit www.redcross.org.