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Lifesaving Advice About Rip Currents

rip tide
red skies, Flickr

With all the advisories we’ve been issued lately, along with the deaths of a 10 year old and a 17 year old in our ocean within a week’s time (both swimming when no lifeguards were on duty), here is some important information from the United States Lifesaving Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

First and foremost, swimming in the ocean when there are lifeguards on duty will reduce your chances of drowning to 1 in 18 million.

Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the shore. They can occur any time, in good or bad weather, on breezy days and calm days, at high tide or low tide, and can drag you out to sea.

Being able to identify where rip currents are occurring – and avoiding those areas – is the best way to stay safe.

This photo shows an example of a rip current. Breaking waves are seen being interrupted by the flow of the current, which makes a clear path out to sea. Rip currents also have a  lighter water color than the surrounding water.

Experts advise against swimming near jetties or piers where there are fixed rip currents.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, follow these steps to escape:

1. Yell for help immediately.

2. Don’t swim against the rip current – it will just tire you out.

3. Escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until you are free.

4. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.

5. When out of the current, swim toward the shore at an angle away from the rip current.

And when you’re heading to the beach, you should check the NOAA’s surf zone forecast, which is updated many times per day at the National Weather Service website.

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