Death Due to Rip TidesBy
With the longer summer days more people are spending time at the beach enjoying the sun and ocean. What most of us don’t know is that the most successful killer in the ocean is not the great white shark or deadly jellyfish. The most dangerous killer is the ocean itself.
Over 100 beach-goers drown each year just in the United States. Most of these drowning have occurred because of a phenomenon called rip tides or rip currents.
Rip currents occur when waves breaking at different parts of the beach carve out channels in the sand where the water returns towards the ocean. As these channels build the water rushes through canals with greater force. These currents can easily pull a victim, even in waist depth water, out into the ocean. Those who chose to fight and swim against this current end up exhausted and possibly dead.
If you happen to be caught in one of these currents please follow the recommendation of the National Weather Service:
When at the beach:
- Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
- Never swim alone.
- Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake.
- Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out.
- Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify potential hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
- Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
- Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
If caught in a rip current:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
- Never fight against the current.
- Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
- Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
- If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
- If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:
- Get help from a lifeguard.
- If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
- Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
- Yell instructions on how to escape.
- Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.