Summer is nearly here and it is time to head to the beach to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. Australians are well educated on beach safety, but for visitors it is well worth making yourself aware of some of the hazards and safety precautions before heading to the beach. Beach safety is really just plain common sense.
1. Swim between the flags.
The simplest thing you can do to protect yourself from beach hazards is to only swim at a patrolled beach.
Our surf lifesavers are very much an Australian beach icon. The majority of them are volunteers who give up their summers to ensure our safety. They know their beaches and are able to identify potential hazards as conditions change.
Strong rip currents, heavy surf, submerged rocks and marine life can all present dangers. Many of our beaches are patrolled each summer. Our surf lifesavers monitor these issues to ensure your safety.
You will see the lifesavers in their yellow and red uniforms, with the red and yellow flags denoting the safe spot on the beach to swim. If there are no red and yellow flags, it is not safe to swim.
Swimming outside the flags not only places you at risk of unsafe rips and submerged rocks, but you are also likely to be hit by a surfboard. Surfers are prohibited between the flags.
2. Obey the signs
You will find many signs warning of dangers such as submerged rocks, strong rip currents and marine wildlife. It is important to take note of and obey these signs. If the beach is closed, it will be because it is too dangerous to swim in.
3. Be aware of marine wildlife.
Our waters are home to many interesting and fascinating creatures, some of which can leave you with a painful and sometimes toxic sting. The most common are:
- Bluebottles can be found on most non-tropical beaches. Their brilliant blue balloon like sails may look pretty. However their trailing tentacles are covered in stinging cells which can cause a painful rash. If you are unfortunate enough to be stung by a bluebottle, stay calm. They are non-venomous. If you are on a patrolled beach, seek help from the surf lifesaver who will have a sting relieving spray. Otherwise, carefully pick off the tentacles and immerse the affected area in the hottest water that can be tolerated by the patient. Do seek medical assistance if you are concerned.
- Our tropical waters are home to some dangerous marine stingers, including box jellyfish. You can avoid being stung by taking note of warning signs and only swimming in designated netted areas. If stung, you should immediately douse the affected area in vinegar and seek urgent medical attention.
- The rock pools surrounding our beaches are fascinating places to explore. However look closely, but do not touch. They can be home to a number of potentially deadly creatures, including the Blue Ringed Octopus. If bitten, you should seek urgent medical treatment.
- Sharks are perhaps one of our most infamous marine creatures. Most are harmless to humans, however you can minimise the danger by only swimming at a patrolled beach and avoiding swimming at dusk or near sunset.
3. Avoid rip currents and dangerous surf
Rips are the number one hazard on Australian beaches and are well signposted. They are strong currents of water running back out to sea through the surf. Rips can change quickly and can be very difficult to see. Which is why it is important to swim at a patrolled beach with experienced lifesavers who are monitoring the surf conditions.
4. Always swim with a friend
Swimming with someone is always a good idea. Not only is it more fun, if one of you gets into trouble, there is someone to get help.
5. Slip, slop, slap.
This famous “Aussie slogan” started life as a sun-safe campaign and has now become a summer routine for most Australians. Even on overcast days, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be very strong, so it is important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Nothing spoils a great day at the beach like a bad case of sunburn.
- Slip on a sun protective shirt. Either a light long-sleeved shirt or a specifically designed “rash shirt” to protect you from the sun
- Slop on sunscreen and continue to re-apply throughout the day
- Slap on a hat, preferably one that will also keep the sun off the back of your neck.
6. Stay hydrated.
Drink plenty of water and avoid soft drink or alcohol to keep you hydrated throughout the day and avoid heatstroke. The sun is usually at its strongest between noon and 3pm, so avoiding the beach between these times is often a good idea.
7. Protect our beaches.
When you visit our beaches, make sure you leave them the way you found them. Take only photos and leave only footprints. Remember to put your rubbish in the bin when you leave.
Following a few simple precautions above can help you to enjoy your time on our beaches. For more detailed information, visit the Beachsafe website, where you can also find important information on the beaches you are planning to visit.
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