Nine Dangers at the Beach - Rip Currents | Shorebreak | Lightning | Tsunamis | Sharks | Jellyfish | Heat and Sunburn | Harmful Algal Blooms | Water Quality
Trips to the beach aren't always fun in the sun. From strong currents and dangerous marine life, to lightning and contaminated water, plan your visit to the beach this summer with the following safety tips in mind. NOAA Safety Information on: Rip Currents | Shorebreak | Lightning | Tsunamis | Sharks | Jellyfish | Heat and Sunburn | Harmful Algal Blooms | Water Quality
Rip CurrentsSmooth water located between breaking waves could signal the presence of a rip current. Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. They are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that quickly pull swimmers out to sea. Rip currents typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. The best way to stay safe is to recognize the danger of rip currents. If caught in one, don't fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle. Always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.
ShorebreakShorebreak have caused serious injury and death to both experienced and inexperienced bodysurfers and swimmers. A shorebreak is an ocean condition when waves break directly on the shore. Both small and high waves can be equally as unpredictable and dangerous and typically form when there is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water. The power of a shorebreak can cause injuries to extremities and the cervical spine. Spinal cord injuries most often occur when diving headfirst into the water or being tumbled in the waves by the force of the waves. Be sure to ask a lifeguard about the wave conditions before going into the water.
LightningThere is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Since 2000, an average of 38 people have been killed annually by lightning in the United States. Already in 2013, seven people have died due to lightning strikes. There is no safe place outside when thunderstorms are in the area. When thunder roars, go indoors! The safest places during lightning activity are substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are not safe. Wait 30 minutes after the last thunder crack before going back to the beach. Lightning Kills.
TsunamisTsunamis are most commonly generated by earthquakes in coastal regions. This map shows wave height in the Pacific Ocean related to the 2010 Japan tsuanmi. A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by any rapid large-scale disturbance of the sea water. Most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes, but they may also be caused by volcanic eruptions, landslides, undersea slumps, or meteor impacts. The tsunami wave may come gently ashore or may increase in height to become a fast moving wall of turbulent water several meters high. Although we can’t prevent a tsunami, the effects can be reduced through community preparedness, timely warnings, and effective response.
SharksOnly about a dozen of the more than 300 species of sharks have been involved in attacks on humans. Despite their reputation, they would much rather feed on fish and marine mammals. Shark attacks, though rare, are most likely to occur near shore, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars, where sharks can become trapped by low tide, and near steep drop offs where shark’s prey gather. The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, but should always be minimized whenever possible. To reduce your risk:
- Don’t swim too far from shore
- Stay in groups – sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual
- Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active
- Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound – sharks have a very acute sense of smell
- Leave the shiny jewelry at home – the reflected light resembles fish scales
- Avoid brightly-colored swimwear – sharks see contrast particularly well