These basic swimming precautions can save a life
As we enter into the summer season, it’s time to take into account some of the variables that can affect us when we’re enjoying ourselves by the seashore. For example, June 5–11 is Rip Current Awareness Week, which is designed to help people appreciate the dangers of being near the water, so that we can conduct ourselves safely.
Here is some basic information to help you protect yourself and those close to you:
What is a riptide?
Do you know what a riptide is? It’s a strong current caused by tidal flow in confined areas that can be a hazard to boaters, but especially swimmers. According to Texas A&M University, rip currents can occur at any beach—and not just at the ocean. If a body of water (including the Great Lakes) has breaking waves, rip currents can form, usually near structures like piers and jetties or at low spots or breaks in sandbars.
How dangerous are riptides?
According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), more than 80 percent of the surf beach rescues performed by lifeguards each year involve rip currents. However, if you swim at a beach with a lifeguard, your chances of drowning drop to 1 in 18 million, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association.
How do you identify a riptide?
These signs are not always easy to identify, but they include:
- a channel of choppy or churning water
- a break in the pattern of incoming waves
- an area of water that is a noticeably different color
- a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily out to sea.
There are more details in a free online training from the National Weather Service called Break the Grip of the Rip.
How do you avoid being caught in a riptide?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has suggestions for how to avoid getting caught in a riptide:
- Learn more about rip currents and beach safety
- Before you head to the shore, look at the local beach forecast and check the local water conditions
- Only swim at a beach that is protected by lifeguards
- Once you arrive at the beach, talk to the lifeguard about the current conditions
- Rip currents often form on calm, sunny days, so don’t be fooled by the weather! Great beach weather doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to swim—or even to play in the shallow water.
It’s also important to remember that rip currents aren't the only deadly beach hazard. Given that there are other dangerous waves and other hazards, always keep an alert eye out when you are near the ocean. You can find out what scientists doing to keep swimmers safe by watching the video Predict the Rip.
We hope this information inspires you to learn more so that you can keep yourself, your family, and your friends safe. Summer is a time for fun, and with a little precaution, it can be relatively carefree as well!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour.