PCMA Letter: Be aware and take caution at the beach



Title: Be Aware and Take Caution at the Beach


Besides the fact that June is National Safety Month, June 5-11 is our nation’s official Rip Current Awareness week. With school out and the summer season upon us, the beach will become a major hot spot for quality time with family and friends.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. Rip currents claim over 100 victims in the United States every year, and more than 80 percent of rescues at the beach are needed because of rip currents.

In our region, where the sea shore is as little as 30 minutes away, it’s important that residents know how to be safe when swimming in the ocean and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Here are some very important safety precautions to remember:


  • Know how to swim, and when at the beach, never swim alone.
  • Always swim at beaches with lifeguards.
  • Know the beach warning flags and what they mean: double red means the beach is closed to the public; red means high hazard with strong surf or currents; yellow means medium hazard; green means calm conditions although caution is still advised; and a purple flag means dangerous marine life but not sharks (is flown with either red or yellow).
  • Take your cell phone to the beach. In the event of an emergency if the lifeguard is not present, dial 9-1-1.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist around these areas.


If you are ever caught in a rip current, the National Weather Service gives this advice:

  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Never fight the current.
  • Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, of which you need to step to the side.
  • Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle — away from the current — towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.


The doctors of the Polk County Medical Association hope you have a safe and fun-filled summer season.


Richard Hamilton, MD

Ophthalmologist at Center for retina and Macular Disease

President-Elect, Polk County Medical Association


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