Top 10 Safety Tips for
In order to enjoy the ocean environment and a safe visit to the beach, the
City of Virginia Beach Department of Convention and Visitor Development
offers the following tips for ocean swimming courtesy of the city's own
Virginia Marine Science Museum.
- Ask Lifeguard about
- Swim in an area
monitored by lifeguards and obey all signal flags
- Red Flags = WATER IS
- Always swim in groups
and avoid secluded beaches
- Know basic water safety,
and how to avoid and survive dangerous situations like rip currents
- Be aware of the tidal
cycles and marine life in the area in which you are swimming
- Avoid the water at
night, dawn or dusk
- Avoid wearing shiny
jewelry in the water
- Don't swim in waters
being fished or around fishing piers
- Don't dive. Go feet
- Know your swimming
ability and stay close to shore
- Swim with care near
sandbars or steep drop-offs
- Never leave children
Shark Task Force Report (925kb pdf)
Rip Currents - Rivers Through The Surf:
Most waves are formed by wind on the water. Sea waves usually result from
storms, often hundreds of miles from shore. Waves are not all equal in
size. Sometimes a group of larger waves comes ashore one after another.
This is known as a "set" of waves.
When waves break, water is
pushed up the slope of the shore. Gravity pulls this water back toward the
sea. If it converges in a narrow, river-like current moving away from
shore, it forms what is known as a rip current. Rip currents can be 50
feet to 50 yards or more wide. They can flow to a point just past the
breaking surf (the surf line) or hundreds of yards offshore. Some 80% of
rescues by lifeguards at America's surf beaches are due to persons being
caught in rip currents.
Rip currents may pull
continuously, but they can suddenly appear or intensify after a set of
waves, or when there is a breach in an offshore sandbar. Longshore
currents, inshore holes, and other bottom conditions contribute to the
formation of rip currents. Inshore holes and sandbars can also greatly
increase the danger of spinal injury. More info about rip current
formation and survival available
on this page from NOAA simply close the new window when done
The sea is a wonderful playground, but you must respect its power. Learn
to swim and consider participating in a junior lifeguard program. When
swimming, choose an area protected by lifeguards. If you are not a strong
swimmer, go no further than knee deep. If you decide to swim, check the
conditions first to identify any dangerous currents. Ask a lifeguard for
assistance. You can sometimes identify a rip current by its foamy and
choppy surface. The water in a rip current may be dirty (from the sand
being turned up by the current). The water may be colder than the
surrounding water. Waves usually do not break as readily in a rip current
as in adjacent water.
If you get caught in a rip
current, try to relax. A rip current is not an "undertow" -- it
will not pull you under. Do not try to swim against the current as this is
very difficult, even for an experienced swimmer. If you can do so, tread
water and float. Call or wave for assistance. You can also try to swim
parallel to shore until you are out of the current, then swim directly
The same forces which cause rip currents also cause long shore currents.
These currents are most evident when waves hit the shore at an angle. This
tends to cause the water to be pushed along the beach away from the
direction of the oncoming waves. Usually, longshore currents are less
hazardous than rip currents because they move along the shore, not away
from the shore, but they can knock children and weaker adults off their
feet. More importantly, long shore currents can feed and increase the
power of rip currents. In other words, the longshore current may move
along the shore, then turn offshore to become a rip current.
Variable wave conditions, particularly seasonal changes in wave patterns,
can create unevenness in the ocean bottom. This includes sandbars and
sudden deep spots, called inshore holes. They can surprise waders, who
suddenly find themselves over their heads. They can also create channels
in the bottom, which concentrate and greatly intensify the power of rip
currents. At any beach with uneven bottom conditions or obvious sandbars,
a higher level of caution should be used.
Pool Safety Tips:
Unfortunately, with the abundance of swimming pools in the City of
Virginia Beach, we must educate everyone in water safety. Drowning is the
leading cause of death for children under the age of four, and most
childhood drownings occur in residential pools. The Department of EMS
offers these water safety tips for all parents and pool owners:
- Teach children to
swim at an early age.
- NEVER leave a child
unsupervised in or near any body of water, even for a second.
- Never leave toys,
wagons, or tricycles around the pool.
- Invest in a
pool-motion alarm or a pool fence.
- Attend a course in
CPR and learn what to do in case of an emergency.
- Have a phone
available whenever participating in any type of water activity.
- Fence pools around
all four sides with a minimum height of four feet, and use a
self-locking gate for the pool enclosure (This is a City of Virginia
Beach Building Code requirement for all pool constructions).
Boating and Jet
ski Safety Tips:
The sun, water, and wind can make for a great day to go cruising along a
river, lake, or majestic bay in a boat. For many individuals and families
this is a favorite summer pastime. It can be safe, as well as fun, if the
fundamental rules of boating are understood and observed.
- Don't drink and boat.
Boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as drinking and
driving. The "designated driver" system doesn't work in
boating. Everyone is at risk because the boat's motion, coupled with
alcohol, increases the chances of losing balance and falling
- Everyone on the boat
should wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) or
life jacket. A PFD is the best protection against drowning. Check the
weather and water conditions before leaving the shore. If it looks
like storms are brewing or the water is very choppy, wait for another
day to go boating.
- Limit the number of
passengers in a small boat. Don't exceed the limit allowed by the
boat's capacity plate. Keep in mind the size and weight of each
person. Equal distribution of weight will limit the possibility of
- Have visual distress
devices approved by the Coast Guard on board. Pyrotechnic red flares,
orange smoke, orange distress flags, and electric distress lights must
be in good working order and easily accessible.
- Use the "one-third
rule" in fuel management. Use one-third of the fuel to go,
one-third to get back, and keep one-third in reserve.
- Always tell someone
where you will be boating, when you will be back, what your boat looks
like, and other identifying information.
Recreational boating is
second only to highway transportation in the number of fatalities that
occur each year. Alcohol is involved in most of these accidents.
To ensure that you are
following safe boating procedures, sign-up for a boating safety course
near your home. Always remember: Boating and booze don't mix!