We all love the coast – there’s nothing better than the seaside – whatever the time of year. But, it can also be dangerous, so make sure you’ve got an understanding of beach safety before you go out there.
‘The Girl with the Curl’
The sea is much like ‘the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead’.
In that ‘when it’s good it’s very, very good, and when it’s bad it’s horrid’!
The beach and water is beautiful to look at, but it has a force and a might that will always win. Never underestimate the power of the sea.
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. Every year thousands of people get into real, life-threatening difficulty all around our coastline. Many even die.
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.
With thanks to Blackpool Beach Patrol for this information – make sure that you stay safe on the shore.
The beach and sea is very inviting, especially on a sunny day and it’s a great way to spend your time. Just please, keep yourself, your family and pets safe.
Warm sunny days can also be very misleading. Sea water takes a long time to warm up and can be very cold at around just 10 degrees C. It seldom reaches 17 degrees C, even on a hot summer’s day. Compared with our normal body temperature at 37 degrees C, getting in the cold water is quite a shock.
Sea temperatures in the UK are generally very chilly, with temperatures below 15 degrees most of the year. If you suddenly enter 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.
Sea Safety, Rip Currents and Large Waves
- Wherever possible, always swim at a lifeguarded beach. Find them throughout the UK and ROI at this link.
- Always read and obey the safety signs at the entrance to the beach.
- 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. Or tell someone that you’ve gone swimming.
- If you get into trouble stick your hand in the air and shout for help.
A rip current is a body of water that flows out to sea and catches many sea-users off guard.
Did you know that 1 cubic cm of water weighs 1 gramme? Water is incredibly heavy.
Have you seen this tonne of water on the promenade outside Blackpool RNLI station?
Large dumping waves are the most dangerous to swim in. They can knock you off your feet into deeper water.
Waves can also be dangerous even when you’re not in the water. In stormy weather, waves and spray are blown up and over the sea wall in many areas. They can be strong enough to knock you off your feet and drag you back into the sea if you get too close. Many people have drowned in this way over the years.
Always keep your dog on a lead and stay away from the edge. Remember beach safety – it’s not worth risking your life for a thrill or a photo.
The tide can change very quickly and often catch people unawares. It’s important to check the local tide times and be aware of your surroundings.
Be careful not to get cut-off by the tide when walking on the beach. Incoming tides create isolated sandbanks on the beach, like this one at Cleveleys.
The sea carves channels in the sand. They shift and move on a daily basis with each tide, particularly during strong winds. When the tide comes back in, the water first rushes through these lower lying channels to create sandbank islands.
They can be very big and it’s very easy to get cut-off from the main beach. The sandbank can often be too long to outrun. That means you’ll be wading through what can be deep, cold and fast moving water.
Watch the 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.
- When you go to the edge of the sea, no matter how far out you are, have a knowledge of whether the tide is coming in or going out.
- Tide Table books give you the high and low tide times each day. You can get the same information online.
- An easy way to tell is by looking at the beach. If it is very wet the tide is going out. If it’s very dry it will be out/coming back in.
- Keep looking back to shore. ALWAYS make sure that there is a wide, dry, safe passage of sand back up the beach behind you.
- DON’T stand looking out to sea, oblivious of what’s at the back of you.
- If you’ve got a mobile phone, make sure you take it with you when you go on the beach. You never know when you’ll need it.
IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE DIAL 999 AND ASK FOR THE COASTGUARD
Here Comes the Sun!
It’s lovely to feel the sun on your skin and it really makes a day at the coast. However, you will catch the sun here much more quickly than you think.
Spending just a short time in the sun can result in sunburn, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Make sure that you wear suncream – apply it before you go out. And make sure that you drink plenty of water.
If you become separated from your child, try not to panic. Notify the Police or the Beach Patrol immediately, who will conduct a search.
Don’t underestimate the need for beach safety and don’t 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 to be found at access points to the beach.
If you do get into trouble in the sea, 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 immediately.
If in Doubt Dial 999
- If you see someone in difficulty, never attempt a rescue.
- Call 999 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). They cover the coast 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). They look after the area from Blackpool to Tickled Trout on the River Ribble.
HM Coastguard is normally the initial contact when you ring 999. They attend beach and sea incidents.
Don’t let it be You
There are many reasons why people get into difficulty. Between 400 – 600 people a year are drowned in the UK, with 20% of this figure around the coast.
People usually drown because of:
– 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. Underwater 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
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