It is amazing how a delightful beach excursion can sour in a moment because of one little oversight or act of carelessness. It is important to know beach safety so that you will have pleasant memories for years to come.
If you are swimming at a public beach and there is warning system, check it as you enter the gate. Most of these are color coded. For instance, the Department of Environmental Protection in Florida has come up with the following standard color chart for beach warning flags.
“ Green: Low hazard, calm conditions, exercise caution.
Yellow: Medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents.
Red: High hazard, high surf and/or strong currents.
Red over Red [i.e., two red flags]: Water closed to the public.
Purple: Dangerous marine life.”
By checking the warning flags, you can be one step ahead by being aware of potential concerns.
It is always wise at the beach to have one observer in your group. That person needs to be watching the children, keeping an eye on the surf for threatening sea creatures, and keeping an eye on the life guard and the warning flags to make sure conditions are not changing.
If you are at the beach with children, you should always be counting heads to make sure everyone is accountable. Children are easily distracted and wander off. They may be chasing a sea gull down the beach and be out of site before you know it. This is especially true if you are on a crowded beach. If you are on a beach that permits vehicles, you will have to be especially vigilant to watch toddlers to make sure that they do not step out in front of a moving vehicle.
Even if a child can swim in an 8 foot pool, that does not mean they should be allowed to venture out in the surf over their head unattended. The roughness and pull of the waves can cause a child to panic in an instant. If a child is up to their waist and is being observed by an adult on the shore, they are plenty deep enough. They will fuss, but use adult wisdom and be firm about how far they can go. They may need to exit the surf quickly and if they are far away from you, you will not be able to get to them if they need your assistance.
Observers should watch adults who are lazing about on floatation devices. It is easy to get comfortable in the sun and not realize that you have been pulled far out or down the beach from your party. Send a life guard if you find someone in your party is in distress and have gotten out too far. The lifeguard is trained to handle such situations. If there is not a life guard and you do not feel strong enough to do the rescue, shout for help and call 911.
The designated observer should also be watching to make sure that children are not getting sun burned. Be especially careful with small babies on the beach. Even if they are under an umbrella, their tender skin can get burned from the glare from the sand, or they can suffer from wind burn.
The observer should be serious about their job. They should not be fishing, talking idly on the phone or engrossed in a book. Change the observer often so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the things they like to do.
If the observer sees something in the water that is suspicious, they should call everyone out of the water until it is identified as harmless. It is safer to play on the beach until danger is passed. If you see someone in danger, contact the lifeguard as soon as possible, or call 911 on your mobile phone.
When walking on the beach, be watchful. Some sea life pack a terrible sting if stepped on or touched. If you are not sure of what something is, leave it alone. When fishing, be especially careful when pulling in fish. You might catch something you were not expecting. Use caution when handling the unwanted catch.
Do not allow children to approach dogs who are being walked on the beach. The animal may look friendly, but it may not be so.
With these simple tips, you are sure to have a safe and pleasant time as you build family memories at the beach this summer.