Yes, the beach and water is beautiful to look at, but it has a force and a might that will always win and you should never underestimate the power of the sea.
Every year thousands of people get into real, life-threatening difficulty all around our coastline. They may be washed out to sea, pulled under by a strong rip current, or simply get into the water when conditions are dangerous.
If you’re heading down to the beach this holiday it’s a great way to spend your time relaxing as the beach and sea can be very inviting.
However these warm sunny days can also be very misleading with temperatures still very cold at around 10’C and seldom reaching 17’C on a hot summer’s day. Compare this with our normal body temperature at 37’C this comes at quite a shock.
Whilst the beach is a fun and exciting place, it can also be dangerous if you don’t take a few minutes to plan your day carefully. From being washed out to sea, pulled under by a strong current or simply misjudging the conditions when they are dangerous, it’s really important to understand that every beach is different and has its own set of hazards.
The sea temperatures in the UK are generally very chilly, with temperatures below 15 degrees most of the year. If you suddenly enter the water this cold, your body can react uncontrollably making it difficult to breath and swim. To avoid this make sure you enter the water gradually or wear a wetsuit to help you acclimatise to the temperature!
A rip current is a body of water that flows out to sea and catches many water-goers off guard.
The tide can change very quickly and can often catch people unaware, being cut off on a sandbank by the incoming tide.
It’s important to check the local tide times and be aware of your surroundings.
Large dumping waves are the most dangerous to swim in, and can knock you off your feet into deeper water.
Incoming tides and sandbanks
Be careful not to get cut-off by the tide when walking on the beach.
The huge flat sandy beaches of the Fylde Coast are particularly prone to the formation of sandbanks.
The sea carves channels in the sand, which shift and move on a daily basis with each tide, particularly so during the heavier winds. When the tide comes back in, the water rushes through these lower lying channels and creates sandbank islands which easily cut unsuspecting people off and leave them in danger. Often, the bank can be too long to outrun, which makes for a wade through what can be deep, cold and fast moving water.
On an incoming tide always watch what is happening behind you and be aware of your exit route back to the top reaches of beach.
Be aware of the waves
Waves are formed by the wind blowing across the surface of the sea. These can be very dangerous, as can standing on the prom and wave dodging.
Mainly in the winter months when the tide is very high with the wind against it, it blows the spray and waves up above the sea defences. There are points along this coastline, mainly in the Blackpool stretches, where people have been washed into the sea and have drowned, so never underestimate it, and always keep your dogs on a lead and stay away from the edge.
Be aware of the Sun
Spending just a short time in the sun can result in sunburn, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke
If you become separated from your child, try not to panic. Notify the Police or the Beach Patrol immediately who will conduct a search
Do not use inflatables in the sea. It only takes a light breeze to blow an inflatable out to sea.
Public Lifesaving Equipment
Such as lifebelts, are placed at every access point to the beach.
If you do get into trouble in the sea, stick your hand in the air and shout for help, and if you see someone in difficulty, never attempt a rescue.
Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard immediately. Alternatively let a Beach Lifeguard know.
* Wherever possible, always swim at a lifeguarded beach.
Go to http://www.goodbeachguide.co.uk to search for listings throughout the UK and ROI.
* Always read and obey the safety signs, usually found at the entrance to the beach. These will help you avoid potential hazards on the beach and identify the safest areas for swimming.
* When on a lifeguarded beach, find the red and yellow flags and always swim or bodyboard between them - this area is patrolled by lifeguards.
* Never swim alone.
* If you get into trouble stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
If you see someone in difficulty, never attempt a rescue.
Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and HM Coastguard (HMCG) are the government organisations responsible for preventing loss of life, continuously improving maritime safety, and protecting the marine environment in the sea around the UK.
HM Coastguard Search and Rescue team are based out of Fleetwood (in the same building as the RNLI) and cover from the Cartford Arms area on the River Wyre through to Blackpool.
There is also a team based in Lytham (in the big car park after the sand dunes on Clifton drive) that looks after Blackpool to Tickled Trout on the river Ribble.
They are normally the intial contact when you ring 999 and will attend both beach and sea incidents.
There are many reasons why people get into difficulty.
Between 400 - 600 people a year drowned in the UK with 20% of this figure around the coast.
The reasons why people drown can usually be accounted for through one of the following factors
- Uninformed or unrestricted access to the water
- Ignorance, disregard or misjudgement of danger
- Lack of supervision
- Inability of the casualty to cope (or to be rescued) once in difficulty.
A lot of work is done to keep people safe:
- Safety Leaflets
- Public Education
- Information signs
- Warning signs
- Prohibition signs
- Physical barriers
- Public Rescue Equipment
- Advanced Lifesaving Equipment
- Trained surveillance
- First aid facility
- Qualified Beach Lifeguards (with appropriate equipment)
The inability to cope once in difficulty can often result in involuntary submersion. Even good swimmers can find their ability severely impaired in cold and fast moving water. Under water obstructions can significantly affect someone’s ability to cope in open water
- With education and reading information
- Obey signage warnings/information about danger
- Learn rescue and survival skills
- Don't tamper with rescue equipment
Royal Life Saving Society UK
Water Safety - The SAFE Code
The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) are very pro-active in trying to get water safety messages out.
Whether you’re at the pool, the beach, a lake, or by a river, use the Safe Code to make sure that you enjoy the water safely
- Spot the dangers - each kind of water offers a different danger
- Advice – take advice
- Friend – always go with a friend
- Emergency – learn how to help in an Emergency
Further information and education including the RLSS Rookie Lifeguard programme, survive and save Programme or the National Pool and Beach Lifeguard Qualifications can be found at:
The Beach Patrol has revamped its Seaside Safety Leaflet that tells a child how to stay safe in Blackpool. These key safety messages could be given to your children now and could make a real difference and save a life.
Safety on Beaches - ROSPA
A comprehensive Guide for Beach Lifeguards & Service providers - RLSS
A guide to Beach Safety Signs, Flags & Symbols - RNLI
Beach safety sign at Fleetwood
Sandbank forming at Cleveleys with the incoming tide
Why don't you Sign Up to Keep Up?
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