PSA: Rip Currents

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Thank you to the National Weather Service for this Rip Current Safety info! 

Rip Current Safety

How to Avoid Getting Caught in a Rip Current

Check water conditions before going in by looking at the local beach forecast before you leave for the beach and talking to the lifeguard at the beach.

Only swim at a beach with lifeguards. The chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million (U.S. Lifesaving Association).

Don't assume! Great weather for the beach does not always mean it's safe to swim or even play in the shallows. Rip currents often form on calm, sunny days.

Learn how to spot a rip current. 

Rip currents aren't the only deadly beach hazard. Learn more about dangerous waves and other hazards and why you should never to turn your back on the ocean.

Surf Zone Forecasts contain three levels of Rip Current Outlooks:

Low Risk: Surf zone conditions are not expected to generate life threatening rip currents; however, life threatening rip currents often occur in the vicinity of groins, jetties, reefs, and piers.

Moderate Risk: Surf zone conditions are favorable for generating life threatening rip currents.

High Risk: Surf zone conditions will likely generate life threatening rip currents.

When you arrive at the beach, ask the lifeguard about rip currents and other potentially dangerous water conditions expected for the day.

Know BEFORE you go in the water!

Check the National Weather Service Surf Zone Forecast: Before you leave for the beach, check the official surf zone forecasts and/or beach advisories and closings link. You also can ask your hotel or rental agency for local sources of weather and beach forecasts.

Know How to Swim BEFORE You Venture In:

Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds, and dangerous currents. Changing ocean currents and winds can quickly exhaust your energy and strength. You should be a strong swimmer before you go into the ocean, Great Lakes, or Gulf of Mexico. Many swimming programs now offer lessons in how to escape a rip current. According to the USLA, learning how to swim is the best defense against drowning.

Know What the Warnings Flags Mean: Know what the warning flags mean. Read the beach safety signs at the entrance to the beach. Once on the beach, look for beach warning flags, often posted on or near a lifeguard's stand. A green flag means water conditions are safe and other colors mean conditions are not safe. These flags are there to protect you. Please read and obey the posted beach signs and warning flags.

Actions to Take at the Beach to Protect You, Your Family and Others

Talk with the Lifeguard

You have arrived at the beach and the water looks inviting, but before you enter the water, ask yourself, is the water safe? Before jumping in make sure you are aware of the water's conditions. Know before you go into the water. Talk to the lifeguard or beach patrol, no one will know the current water conditions better than they will. They are trained to detect dangerous currents and waves and know other water conditions, such as the water temperature. This information could save your life. Annually, rip currents claim the lives of more than 100 people.

Know where the Life Ring or Floatation Device Stations are located

Know where the life ring stations are on the beach. These stations will have floatation devices, such as life rings which you throw to a victim to pull him or her back to shore or to keep the person afloat until rescue comes. If no station is nearby, you can throw an ice chest or anything else that floats to the swimmer caught in the current. If a rope is available from a nearby boat or other source, you can throw the victim a line to them to pull them in.

Always swim with one or more buddies and make sure the person on shore has a cell phone

According to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA), many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, which includes signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you so if an emergency does happen they can for call

In case of an emergency, where the lifeguard is not present, call 911. If you go to the beach with at least four people, two can be in the ocean swimming, one on the beach watching, and one available to take lifesaving actions while the other continues to spot the location of those caught in the rip current.

Actions you can take once you and your children are in the water

Always watch your children carefully, especially when they are playing near the edge of the ocean or in it. A sudden wave or current could quickly drag them through the surf out to the breaking waves. Remember, a child can drown in seconds.


The flat water located between breaking waves, which appears to be safe water for your children, is actually the rip current. It is a river flowing away from the beach out to the ocean stopping just beyond the breaking waves within the surf zone. Rip currents break down waves. 

BEFORE You Go in the Water

Know BEFORE you enter the water what rip currents are, and how to escape them

Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. Typically, they form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures, such as jetties and piers, as well as cliffs that jut into the water. Rip currents are common and can be found on most surf beaches, including the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico. Take a few minutes to learn more or check out the Science of the Surf site.

How to Survive a Rip Current:

Don't fight the current. It's a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second, but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second—faster than an Olympic swimmer.

Relax and float to conserve energy. Staying calm may save your life.

Do NOT try to swim directly into to shore. Swim parallel to the shoreline until you escape the current's pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.

If you feel you can't reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help. Remember: Wave and yell...swim parallel

Are you ready for beach season?

Categories: PSAs
Tags: Safety