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Beach safety tips: What to do in a rip current and how to stay safe near the water | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey


In the wake of the tragic drowning death of former NFL player Ryan Mallett recently, plus a spate of drownings at Florida’s Panama City Beach, Fox News Digital reached out to water safety experts in order to share tips with others to help prevent trips to the beach from ending in tragedy. 

The experts shared a range of advice and insights. 

The tips include the following:

  • Pay attention to warnings upon arriving at the beach
  • Swim in the presence of lifeguards
  • Remember that calm water is not always safe
  • If caught in a riptide, swim parallel to shore, then work your way in
  • Remain calm and float on your back
  • Know that flotation devices don’t always help
  • Stay alert near bodies of water

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Read on to learn more.

Pay attention to warnings when first arriving at the beach

“The first thing every beachgoer should do is pay attention to the conditions of the beach when you arrive,” Chris DeJong, a former national champion swimmer and the Atlanta-based founder of the Big Blue Swim School, a national chain of swim schools for children, told Fox News Digital. 

“Make sure to check for flag warnings,” he also said.  

A yellow flag, said DeJong, means that rip currents are expected, while a red flag means a “dangerous” rip current is expected.

About 80% of ocean lifeguard interventions are due to rip currents, an ocean safety expert told Fox News Digital.  (Andrew Theodorakis/Getty Images)

A rip current, which is also called a riptide, is defined as “channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches,” according to the website for the National Weather Service.

“Typically, they form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures, such as jetties and piers, as well as cliffs that jut into the water,” the site also noted. 

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“Rip currents are common and can be found on most surf beaches, including the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico.”

Swim in the presence of lifeguards

Lifeguards “are trained to spot rip currents,” said DeJong, and “they are trained in rip current rescues and have the necessary equipment to help.” 

A lifeguard looks out at people swimming

It is always recommended to swim in the presence of lifeguards and to follow all of their directions.  (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Also, attempting to rescue someone from a rip current is very dangerous, said Dworkin. 

“Leave the rescue to the professionals,” he said. 

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While lifeguards are important, they are “an additional layer of protection,” registered nurse Mary Jo Quintero told Fox News Digital. 

She is water safety coordinator at Valley Children’s Healthcare, located in California. 

A lifeguard truck along Del Mar beach

Lifeguards are specially trained to rescue people caught in rip currents. A lifeguard, however, “does not take the place of adult supervision” for kids, said one professional.   (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

“The lifeguard does not take the place of adult supervision for children,” she added. 

Remember that calm water is not always safe 

A supposed calm patch of water actually could be a potentially deadly rip current, said Gerry Dworkin, a consultant with Lifesaving Resources, Inc., who is based in Maine and is an expert on water rescues and safety.

“To the untrained observer, the actual rip current appears to be calm water — when in reality it looks calm [only] because a channel has been created between the sandbars and that channel is forcing the water back out to sea,” he said. 

This graphic from the National Weather Service shows what to do if you are caught in a rip current. The best way to escape is to swim parallel to the shore out of the current’s flow. (U.S. National Weather Service)

While Mallett, who perished on June 17, 2023, did not die from a rip current, Dworkin said rip currents are the cause of 80% of ocean lifeguard interventions.

If caught in a riptide, swim parallel to shore, then work your way in

“To escape a rip current, do not try to fight your way against the water flow,” said Dworkin.

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Instead of fighting a rip current and attempting to swim to shore, a person should “swim parallel to shore to escape the channel, and then either float or swim back in,” said Dworkin.

Remain calm and float on your back

Staying calm and floating on your back if you’re stuck in a rip current is important, DeJong also advised. 

“The rip current won’t pull you under. It will just pull you further away from shore,” he said. 

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While floating, try to signal for help. “Raise both arms to attract the lifeguards’ attention,” said Quintero.

Families at Orange Beach

Families play in the water in Orange Beach, Alabama. Parents and other adults should pay special attention to children when at the beach, professionals advised.  (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If someone else is caught in a rip current and you’re standing on the beach, “communicate with the person,” said DeJong. 

“Advise the person to float or swim parallel to the shore and help keep them calm — while you call 911,” he said. 

Know that flotation devices don’t always help

“A flotation device is not guaranteed to help you or your child escape a rip current,” said DeJong. 

“While it can help you stay afloat, it shouldn’t be used as a way to circumvent the warning flags or lack of lifeguard.” 

Stay alert and aware near bodies of water 

“If the open body of water is one a family is visiting, do your homework and learn about the location conditions to keep everyone water safe,” said Quintero.

This is especially important if children are along on the trip. 

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Drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and four years old, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children between the ages of five and 14, said the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Destin, Florida in 2005

Parents should stay alert and aware of their children at all times and avoid things like reading and other distractions during trips to the beach, said Mary Jo Quintero, a water safety expert based in California.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Adult supervision without any distractions such as cell phones, reading, etc. is one of the most important ‘must haves'” of any beach trip, said Quintero.

Also, remember to pick up after yourself or your family when finishing a trip to the beach. 

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“Leave the area better than you found it,” advised Quintero. 

“Keep our beaches clean and clear of litter that can be a safety hazard for humans and marine life,” she added. 

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