UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
As summer draws near, many of us will make plans to head to the beach. The beaches of Pinellas County are a wonderful place to enjoy time with family and friends, take part in watersports, or just relax. However, before you head to the beach, it is important to keep safety as your number one priority. Below are some easy tips you can follow to keep you and your family safe.
Do Not Solely Rely On Lifeguards
Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds and currents that can change suddenly. It is always best to rely on the buddy system and never swim alone. Parents should stay close to young children, even if they are good swimmers. If you are not a confident swimmer, it is best to remain in shallow water and beware of steep drop offs. Lifeguards are a great resource when available, but should not be relied upon. Most of our local beaches do not have lifeguards, so we need to vigilant to prevent accidents.
Beware of Rip Currents
Rip currents are powerful currents that form when water rushes out to sea in a narrow path. Telltale signs of a rip current include differences in water color and water surface compared to surrounding water. If you are caught in a rip current, the most important thing is to remain calm and NOT try to swim against the current. You should swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current. For additional information on Rip Currents, visit http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/tips.shtml.
Monitor the Weather
Living in Pinellas County, we all know that a summer day can change from sunny and calm to a thunderous storm in a matter of minutes. Keep an eye on the weather forecast including severe weather warnings in your area. Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include those pictured.
Remember, you go to the beach to enjoy yourself. If conditions are not good for the beach, be prepared to change your plans.
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