Saturday, May 24, 2014
Summer is the time to learn about water safety. Before entering the water at any of our local beaches, all beachgoers should familiarize themselves with rip currents and learn what to do if they get caught in one.
Rip currents are channels of water that flow out into the ocean. They can be very strong and move very fast – up to 8 mph Rips pull people away from shore, but will not pull a person under. An estimated 80 percent of all surf rescues are due to rip currents.
What does a rip current look like? Rip currents have churning, choppy water; different water color; foam or seaweed moving seaward; and feature a break in the wave pattern.
What to do if you get caught in a rip current: don’t panic, do not try to swim against the current, swim along the shoreline to get out of the rip, swim back to the shore diagonally (away from the rip), wave for help if you are in trouble.
Also learn to swim or stay out of the water, swim with a buddy and near a lifeguard, enter water feet first, watch your children, always obey the posted signs and flags on the beach and at the lifeguard stands, use sunscreen and drink water.
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) provides lifeguards at the county beach parks and at the Folly Beach Fishing Pier in an effort to reduce the number of beach accidents. The agency employs around 60 lifeguards to keep the county beach parks safe at Isle of Palms, Folly Beach County Park, the Folly Beach Fishing Pier and Kiawah Beachwalker Park. Nevertheless, an informed public is essential to maintaining adequate levels of beach and water safety, particularly in the non-lifeguarded areas of Charleston County.
The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission recommends swimming under the watch of our ocean lifeguards. CCPRC has been a certified lifeguard agency with the United States Lifesaving Association, South Atlantic Region, since 1994. Each of the ocean rescue lifeguards are certified to the level of a South Carolina Department of Transportation Emergency Medical Responder or higher. Currently, lifeguards are on duty at beach parks (Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Beachwalker) on weekends only from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Beginning on Memorial Day (May 26), the beach parks will have lifeguards on duty every day through mid-August. For more information on rip currents and how to spot them, visit www.usla.org or www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. For more beach safety tips from your county parks, visit www.charlestoncountyparks.com/safety.