TALLAHASSEE — With more people hitting the surf during the hot summer months in Florida, beachgoers should remember to check surf conditions before taking a dip, according to Florida Division of Emergency Management officials.
Understanding the beach warning flags will help keep swimmers safe as they enjoy the waters. When red flags are flying, swimming in Florida’s coastal waters can be dangerous.
“Rip currents can be difficult to detect — especially around piers and jetties,” said the state’s emergency management Director Bryan W. Koon. “Pay attention to the beach warning flags for current surf conditions, and be sure you know what to do if you experience a rip current.”
When at the beach:
♦ Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast at www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov for local beach conditions.
♦ Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
♦ Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
♦ 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 persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
♦ Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
♦ Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
♦ Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
♦ Yellow: medium hazard
♦ Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
♦ Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life
If caught in a rip current:
♦ Don’t panic. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
♦ Never swim against the rip current. Stay afloat and signal for help.
♦ 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.
♦ Draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and shout for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:
♦ Get help from a lifeguard, or if one is unavailable have someone call 9-1-1.
♦ Throw the rip current victim something that floats – a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
♦ Shout instructions on how to escape.