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Rip Current Safety

Glistening sand, rhythmically crashing waves and palm trees rustling in the breeze evoke visions of a relaxing beach vacation; and while the tides might be on a schedule, ocean currents are unpredictable and can be very dangerous. A rip current, commonly called riptide or undertow, is the leading surf hazard for all beach goers and is particularly dangerous for weak or young swimmers. Over 100 drownings every year in the U.S. are caused by rip currents. Protect yourself and your family by learning how to identify and how to escape a rip current. You might just save your life.

Identifying a Rip Current

  • Rip currents appear in the form of narrow channels of foaming, choppy, otherwise abnormal gatherings of water.
  • The water will be notably darker or murkier.
  • Ocean debris may be moving steadily seaward.
  • It will appear as if the shore is coming to a peak.
  • If you are swimming, you will feel the current start to pull you out to deeper water.

Escaping a Rip Current

  • Do not panic; remain calm and remember that a rip tide cannot pull you down – only out.
  • Do not try and swim against the rip tide. This will only exhaust you, and may lead to drowning.
  • Swim out of the rip by swimming perpendicular to the riptide, or parallel to the shore. The length of a riptide is greater than the width.
  • If you do not have the strength or skill to swim perpendicularly, simply float on your back and wait until the rip current dissipates – then swim back to shore, or signal for help.
  • Do not try to support someone who is with you, this will only exhaust you and could lead to drowning. If someone with you is panicking, calm them down, but don't let them use you to hold them up.

Assisting Someone in a Riptide

  • If you see someone caught in a riptide, alert a lifeguard or trained swimmer to rescue them.
  • If there is no one else around, call 911 and throw the victim something that floats and yell instructions how to escape.
  • If you identify a rip current, alert the people around you and the nearest lifeguard. This could help save someone's life.

Resources:

National Weather Service: http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/
United States Lifesaving Association: http://www.usla.org/?page=RIPCURRENTS

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