Summer is in full swing on the beach which is a perfect time to remind everyone about rip currents.
A rip current is a powerful, narrow channel of fast-moving water that can move up to eight feet per second. Swimmers can be quickly pulled offshore, suffering fatigue when they fight the current trying to swim straight back to the beach. Once fatigue sets in, the risk of drowning increases because swimmers may be unable to keep themselves afloat or swim to safety.
Although lifeguards at United States coastal and Great Lakes beaches rescue thousands of people from rip currents every year, at least 100 deaths will occur. Do not become one of these statistics. Know how to break the grip of the rip!
If you are caught in a rip current, the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) and the Atlantic Beach Rescue recommend the following strategy:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Don’t fight the current by trying to swim against the current straight to shore.
- Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – toward shore.
- If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
- If you don’t think you will be able to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself – face the shore and call or wave for help.
Many people have died trying to rescue rip current victims. If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If there is no lifeguard, yell instructions on how to escape, throw the victim something that floats and have someone call 9-1-1.
The Atlantic Beach Rescue recommends that beachgoers learn to swim and never swim alone; be cautious always, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches; and whenever possible, swim at lifeguard-protected beaches and obey all warning signs and instructions from lifeguards.