It’s time to pull out the bathing suits and sunblock — summer officially starts on June 20th! Living along the South Coast and in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to have so many amazing beaches within driving distance, making it easy to turn any day into a beach day! As your personal insurance experts, HIG’s goal is to help ensure that your summer is safe and full of fun, which is why we’ve put together some important water safety tips to keep in mind before hitting the beach.
Water Safety for Kids
Parents should pay special attention to their children when visiting the beach. Young children, especially inexperienced swimmers, should always wear a life jacket when going out into the water. It’s also important to implement a swim buddy system; never let your child go out for a swim alone, no matter how confident a swimmer they are. And make sure to keep an eye on them even when they’re not in the water! Especially on crowded beach days, it’s easy for a child to wander off and get lost in the crowd.
Protect yourself from the sun by applying sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go out into the sun. Be liberal with your application; a common mistake people make when applying sunscreen is using too little. Remember to apply sunscreen to all areas that will be exposed to the sun; don’t forget your ears, the back of your neck, your scalp, and even the tops of your hands and feet (no one wants a flip flop tan line). And don’t forget to reapply, especially after going in the water! It’s a good idea to re-apply 15-30 minutes after going into the sun, and then every 2 hours or as directed on the label of your specific product.
If you’re planning on swimming at the beach, make sure to choose a beach with a lifeguard on duty. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, a person’s chance of drowning while attending a beach protected by a USLA affiliated lifeguard is around 1 in 18 million. Besides being able to save you in case of an emergency, lifeguards are also able to give you important information about beach and water conditions before you head in for a dip.
Before entering a beach, make sure to take note of any warning flags. In general, the flag color coding works much like a stoplight. A red flag can either indicate that the beach is closed to the public or that there are high hazards, such as high surf or strong currents. Yellow flags can indicate medium hazards, while green flags may indicate calm conditions (stop-slow-go). A blue flag can be used to indicate dangerous marine life like jellyfish or even sharks. Beaches usually have signs explaining the meaning of each flag, but if you are unsure, ask the lifeguard on duty.
Rip Current Safety
Rip currents can happen anywhere, but are especially affected by wind shifts. South-facing beaches, like Horseneck Beach in Westport, Rhode Island, commonly exhibit rip currents due to strong southwestern winds. But there are a few things you can do before you even leave the house to stay safe against rip currents. For example, the National Weather Service has a free online training course to teach you how to spot rip currents. You should also make sure to check the local surf forecast before heading out. The forecast is updated daily and displays information about the risk of rip currents along with data about the swell and water temperature. Remember, just because the weather is nice does not mean that the water is safe — rip currents can form even on days when the water seems calm.
Once you get to the beach, check for any warning flags or talk to the lifeguard on duty about swimming and water conditions, or to learn of any other potential hazards. It is important to also avoid swimming within 100 feet of piers and jetties, where permanent rip currents often exist.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, here’s what you should do:
- Stay calm! Don’t try to fight or swim against the current. This will not help you break free and will only tire you out.
- It may seem counterintuitive, but instead of trying to swim towards the shore, you should swim parallel to it. Once you break free of the rip current, you can change direction and swim back to the shore.
- If you can’t swim to the shore, try to float or tread water until you are able to break free. Wave to shore and call for help to draw attention to yourself.
If you see someone in trouble in the water, immediately alert a lifeguard or call 9-1-1. Remember, when it comes to water rescues, every second counts!
We hope these tips help you enjoy a fun and safe summer full of lazy beach days! If you’re interested in more ways that HIG can protect you and your family with our excellent personal insurance offers, visit our website or give us a call today at 508-676-5949! At HIG, keeping you safe and protected is our priority!