Know before you go: Beach safety

March marks the beginning of beach season along Florida’s shimmering gulf coast. That also means our lifeguards are back on duty along Navarre Beach.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. lifeguards will be monitoring the public gulf side beach areas each day to keep an eye out for trouble.

Swimming in an area where lifeguards are present ensures your safety and the safety of others. Our lifeguards are trained and experienced lifesavers. I make a point to swim in areas where lifeguards are visible. I’ve grown up swimming in the waters of the gulf, but better to be safe than sorry.

A beach vacation can be loads of fun, but any body of water comes with risks. Being aware of conditions and educating yourself will ensure a safe and memorable beach experience.

The flag system

Lifeguards will post color-coded flags every day along the beach letting visitors know the water conditions forecasted for that day. The flags will be updated according to condition changes.

Here’s what the flag colors mean.

Green: Low hazard

Conditions are calm. There is always a risk when swimming so be aware, but on green flag days risks are minimal.

Yellow: Medium hazard

Use caution while swimming. There will be light to moderate surf, and rip currents are possible. Children should stay close to shore, not going deeper than their waist height.

Red: High Hazard

There are rough conditions, strong surf and rip currents are likely. Lifeguards advise all swimmers to avoid entering the water above the knee. In the event of an emergency, these conditions could prevent rescuers from reaching you. Even professional swimmers have trouble on red flag days. Stay safe. Stay on shore.

Double Red: Water is closed to the public

Conditions are unsafe. Stay out of the water.

Purple: Marine pests

A purple flag may be flown along with any of the above flag colors. This means that animals such as jellyfish, stingrays or dangerous fish may have been spotted in the area. Swimming is likely safe. Ask a lifeguard for more information.

Rip currents

Rip currents are strong, narrow currents that flow outward from the beach. They are a natural occurrence, and potentially dangerous to swimmers. They can be deadly.

When a swimmer is caught in a rip current the flow of water pulls them away from shore. The current will not pull you under, but it can be scary.

It’s tempting to try and swim against the current toward shore. DO NOT DO THIS. The current will lead to fatigue even for strong swimmers.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association outlines exactly what to do in the event of a rip current.

If you find yourself caught in a rip current. Float, don’t swim. Remain calm and evaluate your situation. If people are on shore, wave and shout to alert them that you are in need of help.

Calmly swim parallel to shore eventually making your way out of the current and getting back to shore at an angle.

If you see someone else caught in a rip current, alert a lifeguard. Do not attempt to rescue them yourself. Even trained life savers do not attempt rescues without a flotation device.

Instead send something that floats to the person. Along Navarre Beach, emergency flotation devices are located at the foot of main beach walkover for this purpose.

If a lifeguard is not available, call 911.

With any natural space, there are risks along the coastline. But with proper education and precaution, a beach vacation can be a wonderful experience.

Come soak up the sun with us along Navarre Beach. Book your vacation today at NavarreListings.com.

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