Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Tabitha Butierries, 5th Coast Guard District, Command Center.
I am Petty Officer Tabitha Butierries, a Coast Guard search and rescue coordinator at the Fifth Coast Guard District, but today I’m writing to you as a mother of a toddler and a grade-schooler. I have been involved with Coast Guard search and rescue for more than 12 years and every time I’m involved in a case that involves the death of a child, it breaks my heart. I wanted to take a moment to remind parents out there how to keep your children safe while at the beach.
Even a small wave can topple a child and pull them out to sea in a very short time. Keep an eye on your kids! You wouldn’t let your kid run around unattended in a mall parking lot, and the waters at the beach can be just as dangerous. Among those 1 thru 14 years of age, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death, just behind motor vehicle crashes.
Drowning happens fast, and is not loud or splashy as portrayed in media. If a person is drowning they won’t be splashing and yelling, instead it’ll be hard to notice they’re in distress. Learn more about drowning and what it actually looks like.
2.) Have a proper fitting lifejacket.
Lifejackets save lives! If the lifejacket is too big, it can ride up on a child’s body and come off the child. If the lifejacket is too small; it won’t keep them afloat. Remember, arm floaties are NOT a good alternative to the buoyancy of a lifejacket.
Learn about how to properly fit a lifejacket for your child.
It might look like a sunny day but weather can change quickly without notice while out on the beach or in a boat. Storms can blow in and lightning strikes can be dangerous. If you hear thunder, get out of the water and find safety fast! In the United States an average of 62 people are killed each year by lightning. Learn more about lightning safety.
4.) Beware of rip currents; educate your children on their dangers.
A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows AWAY from the shore and takes even the strongest swimmer off shore without their awareness. They can be narrow or more then 50 yards wide. Rip currents are common and can be found on any beach with breaking waves, including large lakes.The US Lifesaving Association estimates rip currents account for more than 80 percent of all beach rescues and more than 100 deaths annually at U.S. beaches.
Learn more about rip currents and what to do if you’re caught in one.
5.) Know who to call for emergencies!
Most people instinctively call 911 when a disaster happens, but the Coast Guard is not linked to the 911 dispatch. Doing a little research and obtaining the number for the nearest Coast Guard station can greatly reduce the time it takes for a Coast Guard unit to arrive on scene. In emergencies, those precious minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Trips to the beach are supposed to be fun, not tragic. Please keep your children safe – the best search and rescue case is the one that never happens!