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Rip Currents and
Ocean Currents Safety

August 2016

To escape the Summer heat, millions of Americans head to the beach each year. Rip Currents, which are created by receding water and anomalies on the beach shore, can generate enough force to pull individuals out to sea and cause death. According to one article, “Rip Currents are responsible for approximately 150 deaths every year in the United States. In Florida, they kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined”1. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has measured the power of rip currents, “at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer”2. To ensure everyone has a safe summer, and to increase Rip Currents and Ocean Current Safety please read the following tips below.

Rip Current DefinitionA Rip Current is a strong, narrow, current of water which runs perpendicular to the beach and pulls out to sea. Additionally, the National Weather Service now considers the terms “Undertow” and “Riptide” obsolete and incorrect and has adopted Rip Current as the standard terminology.

Rip Current Safety

  1. Only Swim at Beaches with Lifeguards
  2. Be sure to look for posted signs and warning flags (i.e. Red Flag means High Hazard or Strong Current)
  3. Never Swim alone
  4. If you are taken by a Rip Current, you should:
    1. Remain calm
    2. Do not fight or flail
    3. If possible, swim parallel to the shore (along the beach)
    4. If you can’t swim, attempt to float, tread water or draw attention to yourself by waving your arms to signal the Life Guard.
    5. Once free of the current, you can attempt to swim back to shore.

Actions to Assist an Individual stuck in a Rip Current:

  1. If you see an individual in distress or struggling in the water, you should immediately notify the nearest lifeguard.
  2. If a lifeguard is not available, you should call or have someone call 911.
  3. Without putting yourself or others at risk, you can attempt to throw objects that float to the individual (i.e. beach ball or rafts).
  4. Attempt to yell directions to the individual about swimming parallel to the beach.
  5. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SWIM OUT AND RESCUE THE INDIVIDUAL. Many people have died attempting to save someone from a Rip Current. Please wait for a trained life guard or first responder to rescue the individual.

For More Information about Rip Tides Visit the NOAA Guide and YouTube Video Listed Below: