The ocean is a beautiful natural resource offering many opportunities for watersports, swimming, or walks along its shores. But as beautiful as the ocean is, it can also be very dangerous. If you are going to spend any time near or in the ocean, it is best that you know the rules of ocean safety to keep you and your family safe. Here are our 7 tips be remain safe in and around the water.
1. Swim only when lifeguards are on duty
Swimming only when lifeguards are on duty is the number one rule for ocean safety. Before you go to the beach, find out which beaches are guarded by lifeguards. You should also familiarize yourself with their hours of operation. It is important that you only swim when lifeguards are on duty. If there is an emergency, it may take too long for other emergency responders to get to you. It also puts others at risk if you require lifesaving services from someone not specifically trained to swim in and rescue someone from the water.
2. Don’t go in if you can’t swim
This seems obvious, but there are people who like to wade in the water, despite not knowing how to swim. This is dangerous because ocean waves and currents can be unpredictable. You may only be planning to stand or wade in the water, but if you are swept off your feet by a wave or a current, you may be pulled out to sea. If you don’t know how to swim, you will not be able to save yourself.
3. Stay within your fitness abilities
Know your fitness abilities before you go into the water, and stay well within what you know you can handle. Don’t go out into the deep water if you are not an avid and strong swimmer. The same goes for when the water is rough. Even then, many experienced swimmers can be pulled out unexpectedly and not be able to handle the force of the water. When it doubt, don’t go out!
4. Swim with a buddy
Even when lifeguards are present, it’s a good idea to use the buddy system when going in the ocean. This is especially true of crowded days, when lifeguards may not be able to quickly see you if you have a problem. A buddy can assist or, if you get pulled out, can alert someone to your situation. And if you insist on swimming when lifeguards aren’t present, its especially important to have someone with you who can summon assistance if you need it.
5. Know the ocean safety flag system
Most lifeguards along the South Jersey shore use a flag system to alert beachgoers as to water conditions. The flag system offers another layer of ocean safety. Typically, a green flag means the water is safe to enter. A yellow flag warns that there may be some danger, so exercise caution when going into the water. And a red flag typically means the water conditions are dangerous and may contain strong waves, rip currents or other hazardous conditions. Even when you enter the water with a green or yellow flag, exercise caution and keep an eye on the lifeguards. Conditions can change swiftly and you’ll want to know whether you should get out of the water if a red flag situation arises. Click here for more information on the flag system.
6. Watch your children when they’re in and near the water
The beach is a wonderful place to relax, read a book and catch some rays. But if you have children – particularly young children – it’s important to keep your eyes on them at all times. Lifeguards have a tough job on busy summer beach days. When crowds of people enter the water, they have to keep an eye on all the bodies in the water. They also have to remain alert for changing water conditions. But there is no better protection for a child in the water than a parent, standing at the water’s edge, keeping a watchful eye on them. If your child gets knocked over by a wave or a boogie boarder, or is swept out to sea, you will see it first and be able to alert the lifeguard. When seconds count, your diligence in watching your child in the water will help keep your child safe.
7. Know how to spot a rip current
Rip currents can develop in various conditions along the shore. If you plan on swimming in the ocean, you should learn about these potentially dangerous currents. It is helpful to learn what they are, what a rip current looks like and what to do if caught in a rip current. There are often signs along the beach to educate you about these dangerous currents. Rip currents can form due to conditions in the water as well as conditions of the beach itself. You may want to ask a lifeguard before you enter the water whether there is a likelihood that a rip current may develop. Please read our article, “Beware the Rip” to learn more about how to spot a rip current and what to do when you are caught in a rip current.
Keep these ocean safety tips in mind and enjoy your time by the sea!