School is out and summer vacation is in! As families head to beaches and lakes, now is the perfect time to learn about keeping you and your loved ones safe, even while on vacation.
One of the biggest dangers on our nation’s beaches and lakefronts are rip currents. Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the shore. They can occur any time, in good or bad weather, on breezy days and calm days and at high tide or low tide. They occur along any coastline featuring breaking waves and are one of the most frequent reasons Coast Guard crews are launched in the summer months.
But before Coast Guard crews or lifesaving professionals are called in, you can do your part to prevent being trapped in a rip current.
Your first line of defense is to read the surf forecast before you head to the beach. The National Weather Service is your first stop for this critical safety information. You can check out their webpage or tune in to local weather reports. Your local beach may also post signs or flags to warn you of hazardous conditions.
Once you have checked the weather reports, the next step in staying safe is by learning how to spot a rip current before you jump into the water.
One of the first indicators of a rip current is a change in the texture of the water. Look for a channel of churning or choppy water. Another sure sign of a rip current is a drastic change in color. Look for an area with a recognizable difference in the water’s color. Any lines of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward or any breaks in incoming wave patterns can also help you identify a potential hazardous current.
If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, the most important thing you can do is remain calm. You should immediately yell for help to let others know you are caught in a rip current, however you should not panic and try to swim against the current, as this will just tire you out.
You can escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until you are free. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward the shore at an angle away from the rip current.
Please share these important safety tips with friends and family, and if you have experienced a rip current, add some safety tips of your own in the comments below!