The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) this week is promoting rip current awareness and encouraging all Floridians to learn the importance of rip current safety during Gulf Coast Rip Current Awareness Week.
“As the weather gets warmer and more residents and visitors travel to the beach, it is imperative to pay close attention to beach forecasts and beach warning flags before entering the water,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “If you have any question as to whether or not there is a rip current, remember – when in doubt, don’t go out.”
According to the National Weather Service, rip current fatalities are the number one killer along the Northern Gulf beaches and account for 80% of all beach rescues. Even the strongest swimmers can be swept out to sea, so knowing how to spot a rip current and safely escape one is critical.
Rip Current Safety Tips:
- How to Spot a Rip Current – Rip currents commonly form in channel cuts through sandbars and around jetties and piers. The flat water located between breaking waves is a rip current flowing away from the beach and back out to sea. Rip currents are typically strongest at low tide but can form at any time.
- Check the Beach Forecast Before You Go – Great weather does not mean it is safe to enter the water. There are three levels of rip current risk: low, moderate, and high. Be sure to look for beach warning flags and signs which are often posted near a lifeguard stand. If you are unsure about water conditions, ask a lifeguard.
- If You Get Caught in a Rip Current – Don’t panic. Swim parallel to shore rather than against the current. If you are unable to escape, float or tread water. If you need help, yell, or wave for assistance.
- If You See Someone Else Caught in a Rip Current – Call for help. If a lifeguard is not available, throw something that can be used as a floatation device, but do not attempt to rescue them without proper training.
Visit FloridaDisaster.org/hazards/marine learn more about rip current safety and other marine hazards.
For weather updates and safety tips, follow the Division on Facebook and Twitter @FLSERT.