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Sea and Beach Safety

sea and beach safety

Half of parents wouldn't know to call 999

To prevent a family day out turning into a tragedy, the MCA Sea Smart campaign advises parents to follow these simple guidelines:

Despite more people than ever needing rescuing or assistance at the seaside last year, research by Sea Smart shows that half of parents wouldn't know to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard if they saw someone in difficulty in the sea or on the beach, which could cause a dangerous delay in assistance being provide.  To prevent a family day out turning into a tragedy, the MCA Sea Smart campaign advises parents to follow these simple guidelines:

• If you see anyone in trouble, dial 999 and ask for Coastguard

• Check the weather and tides before you leave

• Keep children within reach at all times

• Always tie inflatables to an adult on the shoreline (including inflatable toys, rubber rings, inflatable boats, lilos, etc, which can easily drift miles out to sea with just a light breeze).

• Keep clear of cliff edges - they can be slippery when we wet.

• Don't drink and drown - eating and drinking before swimming may give you cramps


Further Beach Safety Considerations

Never enter a beach until you have checked it out
Lifeguard patrolled beaches employ the tried and tested flag system, which is easy to understand and very hard not to notice. The simple rules are that you should always bathe between the red and yellow striped flags and must, on no account, enter the water when the red flag is flying.

Flags to look out for
Red and yellow flags mean lifeguards are on patrol. You should only swim or boogie board in the area between the flags. The red flag means it is dangerous to bathe or swim. You should not go into the water. The quartered black and white flag indicates the area zoned for surf craft and malibu boards. It is not safe for swimmers and bathers.

Rip Currents
A major hazard of bathing in the ocean is the rip current. This is the seaward movement of water caused by natural drainage of water brought in towards the beach by the tide. These currents test all but the strongest swimmers and are invisible to an inexperienced eye. The best advice is always to bathe only on patrolled beaches. These currents, along with offshore winds also dictate that inflatables should never be taken into the sea. It is all too easy to loose control and be swept out.

Swimming at the Beach - Top 10 Tips
1) Always swim or surf at a beach patrolled by lifesavers or lifeguards.
2) Swim between the red and yellow flags. They mark the safest areas to swim.
3) Avoid swimming alone or unsupervised.
4) Read the signs. If a beach is closed, don't swim there.
5) If you are unsure of the surf conditions ask a lifeguard or lifesaver.
6) Don't swim directly after a meal.
7) Don't swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
8) Don't run or dive in the water, always check the conditions, they might have changed.
9) If you get in trouble in the water, don't panic, raise one arm up and float until help arrives.
10) Float with a rip current or undertow, don't swim against it.

Sun Safety
Cream sunscreens use either physical barriers to reflect the sun's rays and/or chemical absorbers to soak up UV radiation before it reaches the skin. A good safe choice is any well known brand. Read more about sun protection and sun creams here.

Dogs on Beach
There are many beaches that ban dogs but it is advisable not to take a dog to the beach where there are children playing and swimming. Taking a dog on a beach where they are banned is punishable by a fine of up to £400.

The Seashore Code
• Please take photographs but leave sea creatures & plants where you find them.
• Always carefully replace overturned rocks & seaweeds as you found them.
• Avoid removing seaweed from rocks; it can take many years to grow.
• Make sure a shell is empty before taking it home.
• Think before buying seashells - most had living animals in them when they were collected.
• Report anything unusual washed up on the shore or beach.
• Please take your litter home with you. Bag it and bin it.

Take Care with Children
Children need to be supervised by an adult at all times, especially near the sea. Toddlers can be knocked over by waves and can quickly drown - even in shallow water.

Make sure you always know where everyone from your group is
• Always swim close to the beach and in line with the shore.
• Never dive or jump from piers, groynes or breakwaters, etc., and take care when entering the sea.
• Only use a snorkel if you are a good swimmer and the water is calm. Don't snorkel if you have breathing problems.

Don't Swim -
- directly after a meal
- after drinking alcohol
- if you are feeling unwell
- are cold, very hot or tired
- near pipes, outflows, rocks, breakwaters and piers
- if the red flag is flying
- where power boats are operating
- where surf boards or sail-craft are active

and don't stay in the water too long. You will get cold and tired.


Inflatables are small rubber dinghies, air beds and other novelty inflatable toys.

Inflatables are fun but can be dangerous – be very careful and come ashore if the wind or tide becomes difficult. A wind blowing off the land makes the sea look calm, flat and apparently safe - it can sweep an inflatable out to sea very swiftly. It only takes a slight breeze to blow an inflatable out to sea. If an inflatable is swept out to sea, don’t go after it - If someone is on the air bed / inflatable call the Coastguard or tell the lifeguard.

Surf conditions are particularly dangerous for inflatables.

If you have a soft board/boogie board, stay with the board and don't go out too far. Keep within the zoned area for swimming, which may be indicated by the red/yellow flags. If you have a large/malibu type board, use this within the zoned area shown between two black/white quartered flags.

Keep your board attached to your wrist or ankle by a strap. Check the tides and currents. Be considerate to other beach users, swimmers and board users.

If Someone Needs Help
• Do not enter the water to rescue anyone. To do so would put you at risk.
• If you are on a beach not manned by Lifeguards, call the Coastguard by telephoning 999 and give the • following information:
• What you have seen - give a clear description.
• Where you have seen it - and where you are telephoning from.
• When you discovered the problem - how long before you have been able to telephone.
• Who you are - your name.
• Once you have given the above information, it is important to stay beside the telephone so you can be contacted again if necessary until emergency is over.
• If Lifeguards are on patrol, call them at once.
• If possible, arrange for someone to remain at the scene of the incident whilst help is summoned.

The Water Safety Code:
• Spot the Dangers
• Check out the beach when you arrive.
• Take care when you are bathing and swimming.
• Beware of rocks, piers, groynes/breakwaters.
• Keep away from cliffs and steep slopes.
• Take Safety Advice.
• Swim where there is a lifeguard on patrol and within a zoned area of red/yellow flags.
• Look out for information - warning signs and flags.
• Never swim where a sign says not to, or when a red flag is flying.
• Listen and take advice from lifeguards.

Don't Go Alone
• Swim with a friend - Never go on your own.
• Make sure there are other people around - you never know when help might be needed.

Learn how to get Help

If you see someone in difficulty, tell somebody, preferably a lifeguard if there is one nearby, or go to the nearest telephone, dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard.

For more information on sea and beach safety, as well as maps of UK coastal areas, please visit the Sea Smart website at www.mcga.gov.uk/seasmart

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