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NWS Rip Current Safety Program

Beach Safety Tips

Never Swim Alone, Always Swim at Beaches with Lifeguards!

four young adults running at edge of beachTalk with the Lifeguard Before Entering the Ocean, Great Lakes, or Gulf of Mexico. The lifeguard is familiar with the beach and can tell you where the safest places are to swim. Watch our short video on how to escape the rip!

Know How To Swim! Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds and currents that can change suddenly.

bullet of woman swimmingSwimming in currents and waves is much more difficult than swimming in a pool. The conditions of the currents and waves can change quickly unlike in a pool where there is consistency. Swimming in currents and waves will also cause fatigue more quickly than swimming in a pool. Smooth water located between breaking waves could signal the presence of a rip current. Ask the lifeguard about the use of a United States Coast Guard approved flotation device. Further, your body will cool quickly while in the water. Limit your time in the water and get out if you start to feel cold. Your body will cool quickly in the water.

beach flags, see bullets for textKnow the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:

  • Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
  • Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
  • Yellow: medium hazard
  • Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
  • Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life, but not sharks.

cell phoneTake your cell phone to the beach. In case of an emergency, where the lifeguard is not present, call 911.

More Ways to be Beach Safe

  • Sun Protection: Information about sun safety tips, and side effects of overexposure to the sun.
  • Surf Safety: All about high surf, safety tips and safety signs.
  • Safety Awareness: Information about ocean safety awareness, how to understand the ocean at various times, and precaution to take before using the ocean.
  • UV and Sun Safety: A detailed informational page about sun safety and what you can do to stay safe when out in the sun.
  • Sun Safety for the Family: General sun safety information and instruction to help your family stay safe while having fun in the sun.
  • Beach Safety (PDF): A list of general safety tips to review before heading out to the beach.
  • Community Beach Safety: Information and points of interest for those who are interested in working to make their local and community breaches safer.
  • Swimming Safety for Kids: An easy to remember list of safety tips for swimming; this information is certainly handy to have when going to the beach.
  • Swimming Skills Chart: Before getting in the water, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of their swimming skills and knows how to stay safe.
  • Beach Safety Recommendations: A brief guide to staying safe at the beach.
  • Teach Kids About Beach Safety: Games and puzzles to help kids learn and understand the importance of beach safety.


Before leaving for the beach, check the local beach weather forecast. Check the rip current outlook statement and the surf zone forecast at coastal weather forecast offices under Rip Current Outlook/Surf Zone Forecast.

Have a Great Summer! And Break The Grip of the Rip®!

Crowded beach with resort town

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Silver Spring, MD 20910
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Last Updated: May 17, 2012