MIAMI (CBS4) – Red flags are flying at lifeguards stations up and down South Florida’s beaches due to rough waves and riptides.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management is warning that beaches from Palm Beach County through Miami-Dade will have dangerous rip currents through Sunday and asks that anyone going into the water use extreme caution.
Beach goers are urged to stay out of the water. If swimmers do go in the water, lifeguards recommend they stay near the shore and always swim near a lifeguard tower.
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beach goers. Every year in the US, rip currents take more than 100 lives and account for more than 80-percent of all beach water rescues. In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined.
Because rip currents can occur on any beach with breaking waves, everyone should know the basics of how to survive a rip current:
The best survival tip is prevention. Avoid swimming in beaches when rip current advisories are in effect. Following are some tips to surviving rip currents provided by The Florida Division of Emergency Management.
When at the beach:
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches.
• Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
• Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Also, never swim alone.
• Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
• Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
• Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
If caught in a rip current:
• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Never fight against the current.
• Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
• Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:
• Get help from a lifeguard.
• If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
• Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
• Yell instructions on how to escape.
• Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
Follow safe boating practices:
• Have a VHF Marine Band Radio and NOAA Weather Radio on board.
• Check the marine forecast well ahead of time.
• Know the limitations of your boat. If small craft advisories or gale warnings are issued, you should postpone travel.
• Be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket.
• File a float plan at your marina.
• Thunderstorms and weather related hazards form quickly. Never let these storms cut off your route back to land.