Beach Safety (USLA.org)
The beach can be unfamiliar territory for international students and other newcomers to America. If you don’t live near the beach, or you aren’t a regular beach-goer, you might be taking risks without realizing it. Big waves, unfamiliar tidal conditions and sudden changes in water depth are all potential dangers. Rips are particularly dangerous and account for a very high percentage of the preventable rescues.
So what is a rip – signs of a potential rip current…
- You notice a column of choppy and churning water.
- You can see an area in the water that has a noticeably different color.
- You observe a line of foam, seaweed, or debris that’s moving steadily out to sea.
- There’s a break in the pattern of incoming waves.
- Swim Near A Lifeguard: USLA statistics over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. USLA has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).
- Never Swim Alone: Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you.
- Don’t Float Where You Can’t Swim: Non-swimmers often use floatation devices, like inflatable rafts, to go offshore. If they fall off, they can quickly drown. No one should use a floatation device unless they are able to swim. Use of a leash is not enough because a non-swimmer may panic and be unable to swim back to the floatation device, even with a leash. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- At Home, You’re the Lifeguard: Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in many states for children age one and two. A major reason for this is home pools, which can be death traps for toddlers. Many of these deaths occur in the few moments it takes a parent to answer a telephone or doorbell. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don’t let your child or a neighbor’s child get into the pool when you’re not there.
DCR utilizes a system of flagging and signage to communicate water quality warnings to the public. DCR posts blue flags on lifeguard stands, contact stations, and main entry points when beach waters test within established limits. When beach waters exceed established limits, the agency flies red flags and posts signage warning the public of the potentially hazardous condition. In addition, agency lifeguards patrol the beach to personally communicate the warning to the public (mass.gov):
Blue flag OK for swimming
Red flag Warning: No swimming, potential health risks.