OC Beach Patrol urges guests to always swim near lifeguard
BY KRISTIN JOSON
(July 5, 2013) Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s in the stand!”
This is not just a catchy slogan that you see on signs throughout Ocean City and on the back of every lifeguard stand. It is a helpful reminder that swimming in unguarded water is never a good idea.
Although this advice applies to pools, it is even more important when swimming in open water such as lakes, rivers and oceans, which have uneven bottoms, changing currents and sudden drop-offs and changes in depth.
People tend to leave their cares, concerns and their common sense behind them when they come to the beach. No one can blame them, vacationers have worked hard and they simply want to enjoy their time by the ocean. Most people believe that nothing bad is going to happen while they are on vacation and that they will never be the unfortunate victim of an accident or injury while enjoying a day at the beach.
The possibility of a tragedy occurring with a loved one is the furthest thing from their mind when they choose to go swimming without a lifeguard.
However, it is important to remember that the ocean is not just a fun place to spend a vacation, it is a natural, ever changing dynamic environment and like all natural phenomena, if it is not treated respectfully it can be deadly. There are sad stories about people who have lost their lives because they chose to swim at night or in the early morning without anyone to guard them.
We have already had several instances this summer of people that had to be rescued when life guards were not on duty. Many times these situations when people choose to swim when guards are not on duty end in a tragedy. Even experienced swimmers and surfers have lost their lives swimming alone with no one to help them when things go wrong.
Lifeguards and people dedicated to water/beach safety feel frustrated by these stories. There is no need for anyone to lose a family member on vacation. It is a tragedy that could be so easily avoided.
The ocean is constantly moving and changing. To the untrained eye it can look calm and safe, but currents on the calmest day can still be dangerous. Never be shy about asking your lifeguard about water conditions. Their job is to recognize the danger and educate beach patrons about it. If you hear them blow their whistle, look and see whom they might be trying to communicate with. It could be you.
The lifeguards will use their flags to direct you out of harms way. Often during the summer we see a lot of wildlife activity out in the ocean. There could be whale sightings and very often, dolphins traveling close to shore. Although these creatures aren’t normally harmful to humans, it’s safer to simply move out of their way and let them pass.
Lifeguards have a better view of what is going on from their guard stand and will move you away from the less dangerous occurrences such as these and the more dangerous situations such as rip currents.
The beach patrol also enforces rules, ordinances and regulations that I am sure some of you find annoying, but each regulation has been put in place for a reason. The Beach Patrol is responsible for maintaining a safe, secure and enjoyable environment for all of our visitors and ensuring that they may enjoy their vacation time. Please remember that if the lifeguard asks you to play ball at the back of the beach, fill in a hole, or move an umbrella out of their line of sight, they are doing this to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable beach experience and can return for many more.
We hope you enjoy your time here in Ocean City. Follow the directions of the lifeguards and never underestimate the incredible power of the ocean. Never swim alone or when lifeguards are not on duty. Remember our slogan and pass it on to family, friends or anyone whose life you value: “Keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard’s in the stand!”
Captains Note: Every member of the beach patrol is fully tested and certified before they ever have the privilege of guarding you or your loved ones. In fact, the bottom line that determines if I offer them a job is a positive response to the question: “Would I trust them to guard someone in my family?”
However, even with the most highly qualified and expertly trained lifeguards on the stands, we still need your help. If you are not a highly skilled swimmer with ocean experience, remain close to shore. It takes even the fastest runner and swimmer some time to get to you and the further out you are in trouble, the more time it takes for us to help you. Never rely on an artificial flotation device in place of actual swimming ability. These devices just give swimmers a false sense of security, because in the surf that flotation could be lost and suddenly make the user an actively drowning victim.
The ocean and beach are wonderful places to enjoy a summer day, just remember that the ocean is not the same as a neighborhood pool. Our first priority is to keep all beach patrons safe, but we cannot control the ocean. When hazards exist where people are swimming, it is our job to guide them out of harms way or when necessary to swim out and assist them back to safety.
Our job is made easier when we have their patience, understanding and assistance. Remember, if you hear a whistle take the time to stop what you are doing and look toward the SRT who is attempting to get someone’s attention. It may be you and if you need help, you should wave your arms over your head indicating to the SRT that you need their assistance. To help us keep you safe always check in with the lifeguard on the stand and never go in the ocean if the beach patrol is not on duty.