Marine Rescue Lieutenant Jeremy Robshaw cautions Historic City News readers to use caution when in the aquatic environment, as St Johns County Fire Rescue participates in National Beach Safety Week the week of June 2nd – 8th.
Rip currents are very high on the agency’s list of beach hazards; and, because of St Augustine and St Johns County’s high risk for rip currents, St Johns County Fire Rescue devotes much of its educational efforts towards rip current safety.
“The beach season is upon us and while we all go to the beach to relax and get away, there are many dangers that can turn a fun day into a tragic one,” Robshaw told reporters. “We also want to take this opportunity to recognize and commend those who serve to protect our beaches and waterways.”
Although drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and the second leading cause of accidental death for persons aged 5 to 44, drowning only accounts for a portion of aquatic related injuries.
Following these simple steps can help to keep you safe in the water:
Swim near a lifeguard – Statistics over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards.
Learn to swim– Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning. Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as the age, probably due to embarrassment. Swimming Instruction is a crucial step to protecting children from injury or death.
Never swim alone – 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, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you when you swim.
Don’t fight the current – It is said that some 80% of rescues by lifeguards at the ocean beaches are caused by rip currents. These currents formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow, but there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.
Swim sober – Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. In fact it account for nearly 60% of drowning incidents involving adults. Alcohol can reduce body temperature and impair swimming ability. Perhaps more importantly, both alcohol and drugs impair good judgment, which may cause people to take risks they would not otherwise take.