How To Stay Beach Safe This Summer With Kids
- Parents Only
By: Hayley Dean, ellaslist
Who doesn’t enjoy a lovely summery day at the beach? We want you to all go home safely, so with this this in mind we share with you some beach safety tips.
Read The Signs
So you’ve arrived at the beach. What should you do next? Do you: a) head straight down to the beach to find the best spot for you to set up camp for the day; b) read the beach safety signs? (Tip: the beach safety signs are often right next to the main entrance to the beach from the car park, but the can also be found out the front of the surf life saving club (if you are heading to a beach which has one). The answer is B.
Safety signs are also put in place to warn about the permanent and occasional hazards that are present in the environment. Some of these signs are permanent for long term hazards. However others are put into place each day by the lifeguards to show you hazards present on that day in a specific location, such as rip currents, which can move from place to place on different days.
If you’ve read the safety signs and you’ve got some questions, look for a lifesaver and free to ask them any questions you have about the conditions at the beach. Lifesavers are highly trained and very knowledgable about beach conditions.
Know Your Flags
Lifeguards who understand the beach use a system of flags and signs to advise the people who visit with the things they need to know. The most important flags on the beach are the red and yellow flags. These show the supervised area of the beach and that a lifesaving service is operating. If there are no red and yellow flags, you should not go swimming.
Swim with a friend or family member (between the red and yellow flags, of course!)
Swimming with a friend or family member is fun (hopefully) and while you’re swimming together, you can keep an eye out for each other. If one of you needs assistance, the other can signal to the lifeguard for help.
If you need help, stay calm and attract attention
Even the most careful and capable people can find themselves out of their limits in the water. If you are not feeling comfortable in the water and you require a lifesaver or lifeguard’s assistance to get back to shore, stay calm, raise an arm in the air and wave it from side to side. This will attract the attention of a lifesaver or lifeguard who will be able to come to your assistance. You should conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until further aid arrives.
How To Spot Rip Currents
A rip is a strong and localised current, close to the surface of the water. Rips are complex, can quickly change shape and location, and at times, are difficult to see – but they often appear as ‘calm water’ within breaking waters and can often be mistaken as a safe place to swim. The things to look for are:
- Deeper, dark-coloured water
- Fewer breaking waves compared to the rest of the beach
- A rippled surface, surrounded by smooth waters
- Foamy, discoloured, sandy water flowing out beyond the waves.
Sometimes it can be easier to look for where the waves are breaking consistently and then look to each side where they don’t break consistently. These areas are likely to be rip currents. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, try and stay calm and swim parallel to the beach.
Bluebottles And Stings
The bluebottle is probably the most well known jellyfish on the Australian coastline. Their blue, balloon-like sail sits above the water and is attached to a long tentacle beneath it. The tentacle is covered in stinging cells. When the tentacle touches the skin it reacts by injecting a small amount of toxin which causes irritation and can be quite painful.
If you (or a friend or family member) are stung by a jellyfish:
- Wash off any remaining tentacles with seawater or pick the tentacles off with your fingers (the tentacles usually can’t sting through the tougher skin on your fingers)
- Immerse the stung area in hot water (no hotter than can usually be tolerated)
- If local pain is not relieved, or it is not possible to immerse the sting area in hot water, the application of cold packs or wrapped ice is also effective.
There are also many types of sharks around Australia. Most are harmless to humans. Although humans fear sharks, they are an important part of the ecosystem and a reality of the ocean. Here are some tips to avoid a shark encounter:
- Avoid swimming at dawn and dusk
- Avoid swimming at river mouths or in murky, discoloured waters
- Avoid swimming in or around schools of baitfish
A lot of beaches have shark nets around them, but it’s important to remember that this doesn’t make the beach shark-proof. If a siren sounds and / or the surf lifesavers tell you to leave the water because of a shark sighting, it is important to do so immediately.
And of course, don't forget to SLIP, SLOP, SLAP!