Tag Archives: beach safety

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.