You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Rip Currents Can Be Deadly-Follow Red Cross Safety Steps

Life Gaurds
...stay safe while at the shore.

It’s summer and for many, it means a trip to the beach for some fun in the sand and surf. However, the presence of rip currents can make swimming in the ocean dangerous and the American Red Cross offers some steps you can take to stay safe while at the shore.

Recently all beaches were closed in an Alabama city along the Gulf of Mexico after four people drowned over a two-day period. All four fatalities were attributed to rip currents which can pull swimmers underwater and even out to sea though the water appears calm on the surface.

A Red Cross water safety poll showed that nearly half of Americans say they’ve had an experience where they were afraid they might drown, yet more than half of Americans plan on engaging in behaviors that put them at risk of future drownings when they take to the water this summer.

More than half of those surveyed said it was okay to swim at a beach when no lifeguard is present, and that they should enter the water and try to help a swimmer in distress. You should only swim where lifeguards are on duty. If you spot someone in distress in the water, you should shout for help, reach or throw a rescue or flotation device to them and call 9-1-1 if needed.

EASY WATER SAFETY TIPS Members of the Aquatic Sub-Council, part of the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, have developed the Circle of Drowning Prevention and Chain of Drowning Survival to raise awareness of the most important steps that Americans can take to reduce the number of preventable drownings.

RIP CURRENTS Be aware of the danger of rip currents. If caught in a rip current, remember the following:

  • Remain calm – think clearly.
  • Don’t fight against the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.
  • If you can’t swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward the shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball. Yell instructions on how to escape the current. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
  • BEACH SAFETY The best way to safety enjoy the water is to learn how to swim. If you are planning a trip to the shore, learn how to swim in the surf. Swim only at a lifeguard-protected beach, within the designated swimming area. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. While you’re enjoying the water, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. Make sure you swim sober and that you never swim alone. And even if you’re confident in your swimming skills, make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore.

    Other safety tips include the following:

  • Do not use a flotation device unless you are able to swim. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Protect your neck – don’t dive headfirst. Check how deep the water is and for any obstructions before diving – go in feet first the first time.
  • Keep a close eye on children and the elderly while at the beach. Wave action can cause someone to lose their footing, even in shallow water.
  • Watch out for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants and leave animals alone.
  • The Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs. To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming programs.

    You can find much more water safety information on

    FIRST AID APP Another thing people can do is download the free Red Cross first aid app which puts expert advice for everyday emergency at someone’s fingertips. The free app is available for direct download from the Appleor Google Play for Android app stores.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.