With still so much uncertainty around travel and the additional paperwork and checklists required for the places you can travel to anyway, most of us will be opting for a staycation this year. But the beaches in the UK can actually be pretty dangerous. So, to help keep you and your families safe, we spoke to the Met Office and RNLI to get up to scratch on beach safety. Here’s what you need to know.
Not all beaches have lifeguards
Whether you’re planning on dipping your toes into the water or not, it’s best to head to a beach where there are lifeguards on hand to help if something goes wrong. This will ensure you get the best help and support as quickly as possible.
Rip currents are responsible for many RNLI lifeguard incidents in the UK
A rip current is a strong current that is running out to sea. If you get caught in one, it’ll take you away from the beach and quickly out of your depths. If you can stand wade your back to shore, or else try and swim parallel to the beach to try and get out of it; don’t panic or swim against the current as this can cause fatigue and get you into trouble quickly. If you do struggle, wave your arms and shout for help- this is the international distress signal.
Before you venture to the beach or into the sea, check the forecast and tide times so you can be aware of when high and low tide times are expected. This will help you to make the most of your day at the beach and ensure you’re aware of any obvious dangers.
In addition, it’s important to keep your eye out for any changes whilst there. If you’re visiting a lifeguarded beach, they’ll put flags up and out when there are changes you need to be aware of. These include:
- Red and yellow flags: It is the safest area to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables.
- Black and white chequered flags: This is the launch and recovery area for kitesurfers and windsurfers. Never swim or bodyboard here.
- Red flag: Do not go into the water under any circumstances when there is a red flag flying.
- Orange windsock: If you see an orange windsock flying, this indicates strong winds; do not use inflatables when the windsock is flying.
Make sure everyone is aware of what to do, if they got into trouble
If planning on going into the sea whilst kayaking, paddleboarding or taking part in another water sport, it would be advisable to wear a buoyancy device, such as a lifejacket. Additionally, a whistle or phone in a waterproof pouch is a helpful item to have in case you do get into trouble as this can help you to call for help if no one else is around.
Key things to remember:
If you get into difficulty in the water, don’t panic. Float on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about and breathe for a few moments (ideally a minute) to calm yourself. If you’re unable to swim back to shore, wave your arms in the air and call for help.
If you see someone in the water in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Alert someone nearby to go and get a lifeguard and continue to monitor the person in trouble, do not try and go after them.
The RNLI have a wealth of advice, guide and information to help you plan a safe day at the beach and even courses you and your little ones can take to become more comfortable in and around the water.
Take inflatables with caution
Inflatable toys are designed for the swimming pool so they can easily be swept out at sea, so it’s best to use them as close to the shore as possible and only use them between the red and yellow flags. Never chase after an inflatable toy, it really isn’t worth the risk and children should be supervised closely when in use.
Identify the lifeguard hut on arrival
If you’re heading to a lifeguarded beach, locate the lifeguard hut with your children. Advise them that if they lose you, to head to the lifeguard hut and speak to the lifeguards. This way, you will have a mutual meeting point should you get separated. The lifeguard hut will also have a service announcement system where they can let the public know that a lost child has reported to the hut. You hope it won’t happen but you will be as prepared as you can be if it does- it does happen more than you would think, especially on a busy day in the summer. Ensure your children know where to find the lifeguard if they can’t find you so they can get help.
Although it seems scary, it’s better to be prepared. Keeping these tips in mind will ensure that you have a great day, not a disastrous one.
Thank you to the Met Office and RNLI for sharing these tips with us. As we know, the great British summer can see all kinds of unpredictable weather. To help you be more prepared, check out the Met Office’s WeatherReady campaign where you can find a wealth of information and guidance to ensure you have a great summer, whatever the weather.