Ten Simple Tips for Water Safety at the Beach that Every Parent Should Know

Planning a day or two – or seven! – at the beach is good reason for some excitement, so make sure you’ve these safety tips planned too.

So many of us love the moment when we see that wide open expanse of water for the first time in a while; from the cool North Sea, to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean, to the wild expenses of the Atlantic and beyond.

Jumping into the water by the beach is a joy for swimmers, both young and old (and all in-between!), and yet it’s not uncommon for children and adults to get into difficulty by the sea even if they’re not far from the shore. Hidden currents, changes in water depth, and the misuse of inflatables all contribute to many swimmers needing assistance in the form of a lifeguard – and sometimes a coast guard – to get them safely back to shore.

With that in mind, if you’re planning a trip to the seaside over the coming weeks or months, take a moment to check out our 10 Simple Tips for Water Safety at the Beach!

1: Do Your Research

If you’re booking a holiday, ask your travel agent if the beach(es) nearby is/are safe, and whether trained lifeguards will be on duty. Your travel agent should know about the amenities for the resort or area you intend to visit, so they’ll be happy to put you at your ease. If you’re booking the holiday independent of any travel agency, take a moment to do an online search, and review nearby beaches, so you’re fully aware of what will be near your hotel or accommodation.

2: Catch Them Early!

You’ve just arrived at your holiday accommodation, and the kids are eager to jump into the pool, but you’ve not even unpacked yet. What harm, if they explore while you look after the grown-up chores?

Actually, it may cause harm. The most common time for children to have accidents while on holiday is within the first hour of arrival, when parents are unpacking and distracted. Parents should take care during this time, to make sure that they know where their children are.

3: Be an Explorer

Once you’ve unpacked, take a trip to the beach and see for yourself what the potential dangers may be, before going into the sea or allowing your little ones to dive in. This doesn’t have to be a chore; a little wander and look-around means you can get accustomed to your getaway surroundings, while keeping an eye on safety at the same time.

4: Out of Sight, Out of Hope?

While at the beach, don’t ever let your young swimmers out of your reach. Supervision is the key to preventing serious accidents in the water, and children are especially vulnerable in the water if they are not familiar with their surroundings. Keep your kids and young swimmers nearby in the water with you, and don’t leave them on their own for any period of time.

5: Ask the Locals

When traveling, don’t be afraid to ask the local community for advice. For example, you should ask lifeguards, tourist information offices, local coastguard stations, or even local fishermen, about where and when it is safe to stroll on the beach or enter the water. They’ll be happy to help you out.

6: Avoid a Rocky Road

It should go without saying, but do not swim near, or dive from rocks, piers, breakwater and coral. It’s too dangerous, especially in an area of part of the coastline that you are likely to be unfamiliar with. Even experienced swimmers are discouraged from swimming or diving around these areas as the risks are too great.

7: What’s Your Sign?

Water safety signage can be very different in varying countries, so find out what local warning flags and signs mean – and adhere to them. Your travel agent, hotel or local lifeguard will be able to help you understand the local signage and flags mean, so don’t be afraid to ask.

8: Don’t Go a-Floatin’!

Inflatable dinghies or lilos are a well-known hazard; there have been drownings as people on inflatables are blown out to sea and get into trouble. Do not use them in open water. Use them in sheltered and confined spaces, such as rock pools, or – better still – the hotel pool!

9: Beware that Sinking Feeling

If you get stuck in quicksand or mud, don’t panic, and don’t try to stand up. Lie down, spread your weight, shout for help, and move slowly in a breaststroke action towards the shore.

10: Get the Lingo Right

Many people living around holiday resorts and towns will have a good grasp of English, but should you witness an emergency, know how to call for help in the local language. Many phrasebooks and holiday travel guides will have an ‘SOS’ section, which will include how to call for help, ask for a doctor or medic, or for an ambulance. You can contact the local emergency services across the EU by calling 112, but many countries also use 999, in the US, 911. If in doubt, ask someone to call the local emergency services instead.

Being safe by the sea doesn’t need to take away the fun of getting away for a few days, but it may make the difference between a great trip away, to a disastrous one.

Keep your family safe, happy and healthy at home

Make sure you stop, look and be safe in and around your home.

Home is the central hub for family life and while we all see our homes as the ultimate safe place for our children, everyday items in and around the home can become water safety dangers and risks.

With the highest drowning rates globally being among children aged 1-4 years, it is not just being out and about, around large quantities of water like swimming pools and lakes that put young children at risk.

Hazards change in the home according to the child’s age and development so it is important to be aware of creating a safe home for your children looking at their age and abilities.

Children aged under 12 months can drown very quickly and in very little water, including water containers that may not be perceived as risks.

Toddlers and young children may be mobile, but are too young to recognise danger, and they can easily fall into water and struggle to get out. The absence of barriers and momentary lapses in supervision put toddlers at risk.

The number of drownings that occur around the home are low compared to those at other locations. However, drownings around the home are also very preventable.

Michael Dunn, Deputy Director of Education & Research of the Royal Life Saving Society said “Of course we all keep our children under close supervision, especially when there is water around, but it is natural that occasionally something will draw our attention away, and that is when having a ‘water safe’ home helps to keep children safe”.

Follow these water safety tips to ensure your home is ‘water safe’:

  • Don’t leave children unattended in the bath.
  • Cover all water storage containers.
  • Keep children away from washing machines.
  • Make sure garden gates and fencing are in order.
  • Use self-closing and latching mechanisms on doors and gates that lead to water.
  • Always keep an eye on children.
  • Empty paddling pools, baths and buckets after use.
  • Fence in private ponds and pools.
  • Keep bath plugs out of the reach of children so they cannot fill the bath with water when you are not around.

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Learn to Swim in Outdoor Pools During Extreme Weather Conditions.

Lifeguards film lightening by the swimming pool


The following recommendations apply during extreme weather conditions for outdoor programs:

RAIN

Rain has little effect on swimmers unless it is accompanied by thunder, lightning and/or wind, although it does make it more difficult to hear the coach. If there is electrical activity, the session should be cancelled. Where possible, a classroom lecture should be made available during inclement weather. However, if the rain is not accompanied by wind, lightning and thunder then the session can proceed. Breaststroke is the most appropriate stroke to practice in rain. Fins are also a valued training aid in rainy conditions to counteract the effect of turbulence.

Cold

Cold is not conductive to listening and learning. If it is necessary to use a cold environment it is advisable for swimmers to practice frequent repetitions of skills on land. Coaches should develop cold weather practice routines that encourages continuous movement to keep swimmers warm, for example coaches should avoid long-winded descriptions and discussions with swimmers standing stills.

Coaches should be aware of the danger signs of hypothermia (shivering, blush lips, ‘goose pimples’). Swimmers showing event the early signs of hypothermia should be removed from the water and all efforts made to gradually warm them, including:

  • removal of wet swimming costumes;
  • covering the body (particularly the head) with warm, dry clothing – ideally natural fabrics like wool;
  • removal of the swimmer from the environment (ie if cold and windy outside look for indoor or sheltered training facilities).

Wind

In windy conditions coaches should ensure that swimmer do not expose their bodies to the weather. This is a good time to practice kicking against the wind and swimming with the wind. Diving into the wind is not advisable for safety reasons.

If the facility has backstroke flags and markings, backstroke is the best activity to practice in windy conditions. Butterfly is the least desirable activity in windy conditions, as a large percentage of the body is exposed to the wind each stroke. It is advisable to use fins in windy conditions.

Heat

Coaches must ensure that all swimmers use sunblock (30 Plus SPF, applied at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activity) of adequate strength and if possible, wear a sun protection suit. All swimmers should also be encouraged to bring their own water bottles and drink regularly throughout each session. Care should be taken to ensure that each swimmer has their own drink bottle with their name written on it, the bottle is kept clean and they never share drink bottles with other group members.

The coach should set a good example by also having a drink bottle and drinking from it regularly.

FINAL WORDS

During extreme weather conditions, it is advisable to have extra teaching support. If there is a problem with pool length and depth visibility, the practice session can either be redirected to the shallow end for turning practice or cancelled until conditions are acceptable. The coach must always have a back-up plan to cope with any adverse weather conditions.

Wet weather lesson plans can include the following:

  • running – light jogging and relaxed easy paced running;
  • skipping rope – light easy skipping, with some vigorous skipping thrown in at intervals;
  • stretch cords – smooth easy and rhythmic to start with then hold race rhythm and rating as intervals;
  • basketball/football/tennis ball – group games and ball games must be controlled and well supervised!
  • showers to get warm then stretch;
  • spa and stretch (if available);
  • jump starts practice (ie practicing starts by jumping into a sand pit or soft grassed area);
  • medicine ball or ‘physio ball’ routines;
  • circuit training with body weight exercises;
  • breathing and yoga-style relaxations exercises;
  • reaction games;group-building games.

Swimmers learn best when the sun is not a distraction and water temperature is between 26 and 32 degrees Celsuius, depending on the season. An outdoor pools is great for group training but climatic conditions, such as heavy rain, storms, wind or a scorching sun, can make for a difficult environment.

It is advisable to vary the training environment to enable swimmers to experience different conditions. An indoor center provides reference points, such as beams running parallel to the pool which help the swimmer to travel in a straight line when swimming backstroke. However, in an outdoor pool swimmers can project their vision to a landmark, such as a tree, a light pole or the block at the end of their lane.

An indoor pool is great for learning, because weather conditions are controlled. As long as water quality, water temperature and air temperature are ideal, an indoor pool is the perfect learning environment, especially for young swimmers, children.

Some outdoor pools are cold and have short seasons of operation. In this situation, classes need to be short and sharp, with minimum talk and more action.

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How Much Do You Know About Water Safety?

This quiz tests your water safety knowledge. Enjoy!