Category Archives: Tips & Safety

8 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane

Right now, South Florida is waiting in suspense to see what Tropical Storm Erika is going to do. While it is still too early to say exactly where she will go, it is never too early to begin preparing for a potential storm.

As someone who experienced the intense hurricane season of 2004, I know it is better to be safe than sorry. Strong storms, like most of nature, are unpredictable. Most people will wait until the last minute to get supplies, and in situations such as this, waiting until just before the storm comes is often too late. Stores will run out of water and gas stations will run out of gas, and deliveries to areas that are either under evacuation or faced with a major storm threat will be suspended.

So beat the rush and make sure your family and home are ready just in case!

What To Do As Soon as Possible

Check to see what supplies you already have

Gather any flashlights, candles, and batteries you have in case the power goes out. Check the pantry to see what non-perishable food items you already have, such as canned food, chips, nuts, or fruit. Also see if you have bottles of water or other drinks that will be ok to drink unrefrigerated. Make sure you have a first-aid kit, and if you are taking medication, make sure you have a full supply or refill just in case you can’t get to the pharmacy for a week or longer. Don’t forget about your pets; make sure they have enough food and water to last too!

Shop for what you don’t have

Whenever you are in the “cone of concern,” it is a good idea to head to your local store ASAP and get what you need. It is unbelievable how fast places can sell out of important things such as water, and the place you want to be is in one of these stores when everyone else who waited is fighting over the last pack of batteries.

Fill up your car with gas

Filling up your car with gas is absolutely imperative. If the power is out, there is no gas. If an area is under storm warning, gas tankers will suspend their normal routes. If you have a gas grill, it is also a good idea to refill your propane tank if needed, so you will have a way to cook or boil water if the power goes out.

Board Up

If you have a lot of windows, sliding glass doors, etc. and strong winds are predicted, purchase plywood from your local home improvement store and board up any windows. Do this whether you are staying in your home, or seeking shelter elsewhere. Don’t wait until the very last minute to do this, because it can take more time than you might think to do it right. If you are lucky enough to have storm shutters, put those babies down and batten down the hatches! Not only will boarding up protect you during the storm, it will also protect you after the storm, when unfortunately sometimes looting can become an issue.

Just Before the Storm

Charge your electronics

Make sure phones, computers, and tablets are charged. Though cell towers and WiFi may be impacted during the storm, charging them just before the storm hits is a good idea. At least throughout the storm you may have music and games available, and there’s always a chance the cell towers may be working so you can let loved ones know you’re ok.

Bring in anything that is not bolted down

Wind is a powerful force, and something that should not be tempted. Bring in any patio furniture, grills, garden gnomes, or anything else that can become a projectile object in tropical storm or hurricane force winds. Don’t take any chances!

Fill up your tub with water

Sometimes before a storm, a city will turn off the electricity or water systems for safety reasons. Before this happens, or before the storm takes these services out, fill up your tub or tubs with water. This will come in handy for bathing or washing things if necessary.

Prepare a “Hurricane Party” Room

For the brunt of the storm it is best to go in the center of your home that is on the first floor and has no windows. A laundry room or closet usually works best. Before the storm happens, make it comfy! Bring in a spare mattress or some bean bag chairs, put candles, flashlights, and water in there. Make yourself as comfy as possible to ride out the storm!

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the storm is key to maximize the safety of both you and your family. If you are ordered to evacuate, evacuate. If you live in a flood zone, maybe go to a shelter or to a hotel. Whatever you do, don’t take any chances, and don’t panic either! Also, don’t try and drive during a tropical storm or hurricane. Prepare a bag in case you need to leave suddenly, and put any prized possessions in a sealed plastic container or waterproof safe to protect them.

Be safe and smart!

For more information on storm prep, check out Ready.gov.

The 7 Apps You Need to Download Before You Hit the Beach

Before you hit the sand and surf, hit the app store on your smart phone and download a few apps that will enhance your beach experience.

Check Out the Waters

magic seaweed itunes store download apple

Magic Seaweed

Magic Seaweed is a go-to web resource for any surf lover, and their easy to use app brings need to know info on the go. This app shows you real time wave heights and wind direction, helping you choose whether you are going to bring the paddle board or the surf board.

You can save and choose your favorite beach spots in the world if you sign up for an account, so you can compare and contrast the tides, charts, pictures, and other information.

If you need some saltwater surfspiration this app will truly give you that with tubular videos and other dynamic content.

Basic download is free, create an account to utilize more of the app’s features.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

tides near me free app

Tides Near Me- Free

Tides Near Me- Free app is simple, easy to use, and straightforward.  Quickly select your location to see the last tide, the next tide, times for the sunrise and sunset, and times for the moonrise and moonset.

Tides Near Me also shows you the tidal forecast for the future week.

This app is free to download, but for $1.99 you can purchase an ad-free version.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

Track Marinelife

ocearch global shark tracker

Ocearch Global Shark Tracker

This is a fun and exciting shark tracking tool! See if any of Ocearch’s tagged sharks are swimming near you!

Ocearch.org is a non-profit organization that provides nearly real-time information on large marine predators, such as Great White sharks and other shark species. Ocearch brings together some of the greatest research scientists throughout the world that collaborate to provide  information about these magnificent creatures. Greater understanding about the habits and behaviors of sharks will yield more successful conservation efforts.

Follow the travels of Katharine the Great White, or Pablo the Mako Shark. It is truly amazing to see the distance these shark travel. You never know where they will be!

This app is free to download.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

 Participate in Citizen Science

jellywatch jellyfish spotting app

Jellywatch

This app is not only a great resource for learning about jellyfish, but it also allows you to record your own jellyfish sightings!

Walking on the beach and see a washed up jellyfish?  Snap a picture and upload information about your sighting. Snorkeling or diving a reef and run into some jellies? Record what you saw, so other beach goers can be aware of what is out there!

Even if you don’t plan on recording information, this app is crucial to having a safe day at the beach sans jellyfish stings.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

marine debris tracker app responsible tourism

Marine Debris Tracker

This is one of our favorite apps, especially since we love responsible tourism. However, it only works if we contribute to it.

If you do a beach cleanup, or are just walking along the beach and discover any litter, bust out this app and record it.

Mark your location, and what you found. It is important to see if there are any litter trends, where debris is ending up, and what exactly is being left behind.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

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IveGot1 Invasive Species Reporter

This is a very important app to have on your phone if you are traversing nature in Florida, whether on land or sea. Invasive species cost Floridians an estimated $500 million a year, which is nothing compared to the ecological problems that they create.

If you see an invasive species, such as a lion fish or ball python, record it in this app. This information will help to determine how advanced an infestation of an invasive species is, and hopefully help to remedy the issue and to protect indigenous species and ecosystems.

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

inaturalist record observations nature

iNaturalist

This is a great way to record any nature you want- plants, mammals, insects- whatever you see!

This fun app is a social network of other likeminded nature lovers that record their observations. Peruse guides, such as the Caribbean Coral Reef Food Web, or find your location on the map to see what has been spotted near you!

Download with Google Play

Download with iTunes

Did we miss an app that you think is a must-have for any beach goer? Contact us and let us know what we should download next!

Florida Beach Warning Flags

No matter which public access beach in Florida you go to, the beach warning flag system will be the same.

In 2005, an amendment to Section 380.276, F.S., required all public beaches to display only the flag system that was developed by the Florida Coastal Management Program, the Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association, the United States Lifesaving Association, and the International Life Saving Federation.

Prior to this change, beaches had their own color or pattern system to signal ocean conditions to beach goers, which led to confusion and misinterpretation if another beach used a similar color to denote a different condition.

If you learn what each flag means prior to your beach trip, you will be able to assess the conditions of the water and any hazards there may be.

These flags will usually fly at the entrances to the beach access, or they may be flown on the actual lifeguard stand. Each beach is different in their presentation, but the meaning of the flags remains the same.

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Double Red Flag- Water Closed to Public

This will be flown if there is impending weather or extreme rip currents. Lifeguards will also put this in areas near jetties or piers that are “no swim zones.”

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Solid Single Red Flag- High Hazard

If there are big waves, a storm coming, or strong currents, this flag will be flown. It is usually best to exercise extreme caution when this flag is flown, and if you are  a weak swimmer or not experienced in the ocean, it is probably best just spend your beach trip on the sand.

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Solid Yellow Flag- Medium Hazard

This flag means there is moderate surf and/or currents. The water may be choppy, with larger than average waves. It is best to exercise caution, especially if you have an elderly person or a child with you.

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Solid Green Flag- Low Hazard

Green means go! The green flag flying is the most ideal flag to fly over your beach trip. The ocean conditions are favorable and calm. It’s time to relax, but still be cautious!

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Solid Purple Flag- Dangerous Marine Life

Often times, this flag will be flown with one of the other flags. For example, you will see a green flag flying, which means water conditions are favorable, but the purple flag is also flying just beneath it, because the lifeguard has spotted man-o-war.  You can still enter the water, but be aware of what is swimming around you. Be particularly wary of clumps of seaweed, where jellyfish may be. The lifeguard will usually write on the lifeguard communications board what specific dangerous marine life is in the water.

 

Dangerous marine life does not necessarily mean that a Great White Shark is lurking in the waters. The absence of a purple flag does not mean you are “alone” either. It is always best to be aware of what is around you. The magic of the ocean is that you may be underwater, looking out into the clear water, and there is nothing in front of you. You continue to look out longer, and suddenly things will appear before you that you wonder how you could not have seen. It’s awe-inspiring.

Sharks have a bad rep, because they will usually leave you alone. It is common to run into a nurse shark, especially if you are near a reef, but they will not bother you.

The one time I did run into a shark that could have posed a potential threat, a lifeguard on a four-wheeler followed it down the coast. When he approached our beach camp, he calmly said, “Hey, there is a shark cruising this way, very, very close to shore. You should probably  stay out of the water, and let them know what is going on.” I signaled to my companions, and they returned to shore, and the three of us watched as the large, dark shadow passed through where they had just been swimming.

We returned to the water when it was further down the coastline, treated to an amazing close encounter with a truly majestic creature.

 

Always pay attention to the warning flags. Ask a lifeguard for more information about why they are flying a certain flag that day if you have questions.

Swimming Safety: Rip Currents

rip current beach sign

Getting caught in a rip current is a scary moment, no matter how well you can swim or how many times you have been in the ocean.

As with most scenarios, maintaining composure will allow you to get out of the rip current safely, or as this sign so succinctly says, “Break the grip of the rip!”

According to the NOAA, 100 people drown in rip currents every year in the United States alone. People caught in rip currents account for more than 80% of all lifeguard rescues.

Rip currents can occur in any large body of water, even the Great Lakes!

What is a rip current?

A rip current is a fast-moving current of water that moves from the shore out to sea. They can be narrow, or hundreds of yards wide, depending on the conditions. If you are caught in a rip current, it will pull you out to sea, but not underwater. That is why floating and/or staying calm is imperative to your survival.

You can always see a rip current from shore, right?

No, not always. You can look for signs, such as churning water, murky water, or excess foam or seaweed. If most of the water has normal waves rolling in and the water is clear, but there is a section that appears darker, or the waves are choppier, chances are the latter area is indeed a rip current.

I’m pretty much the best swimmer. Ever. I’ll be fine…right?

Wrong. A rip current would give Michael Phelps a run for his money. Some rip currents have been recorded moving at speeds of eight feet per second! Just as fast as you got into a rip current, you can get out of it, but the shear speed of the water might alarm you. As difficult as it may seem, don’t panic!

Forget this, I am never going in the ocean again!

Woah, woah, woah! Don’t be like that. You can go into the ocean, but don’t go into the ocean when A) a large storm, especially a tropical storm or hurricane is coming or going B) if other people are getting rescued by lifeguards due to a rip current, or C) there are red, “no swimming” flags flying along the shoreline and/or at the lifeguard stand.

OMG I DIDN’T LISTEN, I AM STUCK IN A RIP CURRENT!

  1. Keep calm, and breathe.
  2. DO NOT try to swim towards shore. You will be swimming against the current, and that will exhaust your energy.
  3. Instead, swim out of the current, parallel to the shore.
  4. Once you are out of the current, you can then swim into shore.
  5. If you cannot get out of the current, tread water, or float. (Floating will conserve the most energy.) Eventually, you will be out of the current, and then you can swim to shore. Don’t be afraid by how far offshore you may seem to be.
  6. If you absolutely cannot get out of the rip current, face the shoreline, yell, and wave your arms to get the attention of a lifeguard.
  7. Do not panic. Do not think about how you just watched  Jaws. Think happy, peaceful thoughts.

Phew, I made it out! So what should I do next time to prevent getting caught in a rip current?

  • Check your local weather or a weather app. It will say if there is a rip current warning, and where. It is best to avoid that area.
  • Swim where there are lifeguards present. It is nice to have someone watching over you who has been trained and knows the proper procedures, and CPR if necessary.
  • If you think there might be a rip current, ask the on-duty lifeguard to see if he or she agrees, and what their recommendations are.
  • Wearing polarized sunglasses may help to see the differences between the regular water, and the rip currents.

If someone else is in trouble, call 9-1-1 or run to a lifeguard. Even in unguarded areas, there may be a buoy that you can throw to the person in trouble. If you go after the person, you may become caught in the rip current yourself, putting you both in jeopardy.

life ring flotation device beach safety

Safe Swimming!

Beach Safety 101

At the beach, it is easy to feel relaxed. The soothing sound of the ebb and flow of the ocean mixed with the warm, tropical breeze can take all the worries away. You want to let go, feel like you are away from it all. The one thing, however, you should never let go of is your personal awareness of what is going on around you.

Despite the fact that we want to believe that sunshine chases all the evils away, unfortunately it can bring many criminal moths to the flame. Bad things unfortunately do happen in beautiful, breathtaking settings.

macarthur beach safety

Most beaches will have a sign that will remind you to make sure all of your valuables are locked away; these signs exist for a reason. I once read that law enforcement officials believe that a clean car is a safe car; if there is nothing in view to tempt the thugs and thieves , they will move on to the next car.

Criminals know that once you leave your car for the beach, you probably won’t be returning for a while. Most of the time  your car won’t be within your sight. The criminals know this. There will usually be a lookout, watching the lot, and looking for certain things that will tip them off to some goodies.

For example, ladies if you store your purse somewhere in the car, then you will be walking out of the car without a purse, which will raise a flag to the criminal lookout to know to look in the car for a purse! (This scenario has happened to me.)

Another scenario I witnessed was a gentleman who left his shorts on the passenger’s seat of his car. When he returned to his car after a mere fifteen minutes, his passenger window was smashed in, and the shorts were gone. Luckily, nothing of value was in the shorts, but it was mind boggling to think that someone had just smashed his window in in hopes of something being in the shorts. They stole SHORTS. It was a huge chance that didn’t pay off for them, and ended up causing a headache to the gentleman victim. If there would have been a purse, smartphone, or mp3 player within view, that stuff would have been gone before you  even had a chance to return to the car. Just because the doors are locked, your valuables are still within reach.

People will also be bold and steal something right out of your beach bag or off your beach towel. Broad daylight won’t stop them, so be aware of the people around you. Always have an eye on your things.

Don’t let your day in paradise turn into a nightmare.

Here are some ideas to minimize your chance of being a victim:

  • Don’t Flaunt Your Technology. Don’t walk onto the beach and pull out your shiny new iPhone, your amazing SLR camera, and then run into the water. Now everyone knows you have the good stuff.
  • If You Are With a Group, Don’t Leave Your Beach Camp Unattended. Go to the water’s edge in alternating groups, so that there is always someone with all of the beach bags and stuff.
  • If You Are Alone, leave your stuff in front of the lifeguard stand. Lifeguards are observant, and might notice if someone else goes sniffing around your things.
  • Leave Your Designer Gear at Home. Everyone loves to show off their designer beach gear, but no one likes to lose it. Save the labels for the pool.
  • Lock Valuable Things You Can’t Be Without in the Glove Box. If your glove box has a lock, put things like credit cards, etc. in there. Place them between the pages of a car manual. The longer a thief sees a prospective robbery taking, the lower the chance they will take the risk.
  • Make Sure Your Car is Secure. Double check the locks, double click your alarm system so the whole parking lot can hear it beep-beep.
  • Check on Your Car Often. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to run back to the car and make sure nothing sketchy is going down, either to your car or someone else’s. It takes a village.
  • Park Where There is Security. Park where there is an attendant, where there are workers, and near other cars. There is safety in numbers.
  • Keep Things Out of Sight. Whether it is your car, or your beach blanket, don’t leave things out in plain view. Leaving something as simple as a car charger may signal to a thief that there is a phone somewhere to be found.
  • Don’t Even Risk It. Whatever you truly do not need with you at the beach, leave at home.
  • Always Trust Your Instincts. If a place is giving you bad vibes, turn around right then and there, and go somewhere else. Don’t take a chance if your inner voice is telling you something is wrong.

Don’t let other people kill your jive, be thoughtful and prepared and you should have a great time! This is not the time or place to figure out if ignorance yields bliss, because that could mean you could lose something you will really miss.

beach safety lock autos tips

 

Jellyfish: What to Do if You Get Stung

Pictured above are the stunning moon jellyfish, one of the most common jellyfish species in our oceans. Most of the time, these jellyfish won’t sting humans, but there are plenty of jellyfish who will if they feel threatened.

If you are going to swim in the ocean, it is important to know how to handle a jellyfish sting in order to minimize the discomfort and maximize calmness.

Step One: Remove the nematocysts (venomous stingers). Do this by first washing away any tentacles still stuck to you with salt water. Do not use fresh water.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you use credit cards to brush off any nematocysts still stuck in your skin. If you use your fingers, you may get stung, and if you use any fabric, you may release more venom.

Step Two: Deactivate Nematocysts. You have two options that the Mayo Clinic recommends for this.

1) Rinse the affected area with generous amounts of vinegar for 30 seconds.

2) Mix salt water and baking soda to create a paste to apply to the affected area. (This is recommended for Portuguese Man-O-War and Sea Nettle stings.)

Step Three: Soothe the pain. Calamine lotion or other anti-itch lotions will soothe the irritation. Physicians are still debating whether or not warm water or cool water is the best way to soak your sting. Talk to a doctor to find out the best way to deal with your discomfort.

 

Jellyfish stings can range in severity. It can take anywhere from a few weeks or even a few months for a jellyfish sting to go away completely.

A “standard” jellyfish sting will include immediate burning pain, marks on the skin that will show where the tentacle came into contact (can be purplish, red, or brown), itching, tingling, numbness, radiating throbbing pain.

Severe jellyfish stings require immediate medical attention, especially if the person was stung all over. Reactions to jellyfish stings can occur immediately or over the course of a few hours.

Severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle spasms, weakness, dizziness, fever, loss of consciousness, irregular heartbeat, and more.*

 

Jellyfish are common, but most of the time they are content going on about their jellyfish lives and not stinging you. If you do come in to contact with one, do not panic! Stay calm, and retreat to shore if you can.

Most beaches will have a conditions chart where the lifeguard will write the daily sea conditions. (This can be found either on the lifeguard stand, or at the entrance to the beach.) This will usually include if there are any sea pests or dangerous marine life in the area. Always check this before you continue on to the beach!

If the beach you are going to does not have a conditions chart, exercise even greater caution.

If you are fascinated by jellyfish, or if you want to know which jellies have been spotted in your area, then check out JellyWatch. This excellent organization provides information on jellyfish sightings throughout the world. You can even add your own jellyfish sighting if you want!

Don’t fear the jelly!

 

*Information provided thanks to the research and expertise of the Mayo Clinic. The Beach Review is not written by a medical physician, and should not be used as a substitute to professional medical advice. Seek a medical professional if you or someone else is experiencing a severe jellyfish reaction.

How To Beat the Beach Heat

The beach is a place where we go to enjoy the summer sun and cool off from the summer heat. Most beaches offer little shade, and sometimes during the peak summer months the water won’t even offer true refreshment from the heat.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of what the heat can do to you or others, so that way a nice day at the beach won’t become a nightmare. The good thing is that it can all be prevented with proper preparation.

The Three Phases of Heat Problems

Heat Cramps

The first sign that the heat may be negatively affecting you is heat cramps. These occur during extended periods of time in the heat, often due to activities that require a high level of energy. Playing volleyball or jogging on the beach can induce heat cramps.

Your legs, arms, or stomach may begin to cramp, causing great discomfort. If you begin to cramp up, it is best to stop whatever activity you are doing and seek shade and water, until you begin to feel better.

If you do not listen to your body, heat cramps can turn into heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by your body’s inability to cool itself off. This can be caused by hot weather, dehydration, strenuous activity, or alcohol consumption.

Whether you are suntanning, reading a book, searching for seashells, or jogging, heat exhaustion can strike.

Symptoms to look for: heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, weak rapid pulse, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, cool moist skin with goosebumps despite the heat*

Treatments: Seek out shade or air-conditioning, drink cool fluids, put cool water on the skin, loosen clothing**

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a serious condition that occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees fahrenheit. (The average normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees fahrenheit.)

If heatstroke goes untreated, it can lead to permanent damage or even death.

Symptoms to look for: lack of sweat despite the heat, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache, confusion, muscle cramps, weakness, unconsciousness*

Treatments: Call a doctor or ambulance ASAP, immerse in cold water, seek out cool air, use cooling blankets, use ice packs**

Who is at Risk?

Some people are at a greater risk than others when it comes to dealing with the heat. The elderly and young are at very high risk for developing heat problems, and should be closely monitored at the beach.

Certain medications can affect how your body deals with the heat, so consult with your doctor to see if any medicine you are on may cause any heat issues for you.

Any day that has a high heat index of 91 degrees fahrenheit or above is hot enough to create problems for anyone, despite your age, health or experience. So be prepared!

*All above information courtesy of Mayo Clinic.

Things to Bring to the Beach to Prevent Heat Problems

  • Lots of water. If you plan on staying an extended period of time at the beach, it is best to have at least one gallon of water per adult. Make sure to use a reusable or refillable bottle to reduce plastic use.
  • Sunscreen. Apply and then reapply. Try to use reef-friendly sunscreen.
  • Umbrella. Umbrellas are a great way to provide some shade to your beach camp.
  • Drinks with electrolytes. Drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade provide nourishment that are designed to help prevent dehydration.
  • Cooler with Ice. Not only will your drinks stay cool, but you can cool down yourself and others with the ice.
  • Battery-Powered Fan. These fans are easy to use and will provide a constant breeze for anyone feeling the heat. You can even buy ones that are attached to spray bottles, so you can mist yourself!

It’s important to know the risks of the heat in order to be prepared for your beach day! Stay cool and beat the beach heat!

**The Beach Review is not written by a medical physician. Any information provided here should not be substituted for a licensed physician’s opinion. If you or someone you know is suffering from any of the above, please seek professional medical help immediately.