Over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year and many more suffer injury, some life-changing, through non-fatal experiences. More people die from drowning in the UK and Ireland than from domestic fires or cycling accidents.
Visiting the coast can be great fun, from cliff walking, swimming or just relaxing at the beach. To get the most out of your trip, have fun, and stay safe, make sure you check the weather and tides before heading out, wear appropriate footwear and clothing for your activity, know the sea conditions and stick to coastal paths. Also, make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
If You See
Someone in Danger
Ask for Coastguard
Top 10 beach safety tips
Seek advice from your travel agent when booking a holiday to ask if the beach is safe and whether trained lifeguards will be on duty
Be aware that the most common time for children to have accidents on holiday is within the first hour of a holiday when parents are unpacking and distracted. Parents should take care during this time to make sure that they know where their children are
When you have unpacked, visit the beach and look for yourself what the potential dangers are before going into the sea
While at the beach, never let your young children out of your reach —supervision is the key to preventing serious accidents
Always ask for local advice, for example from lifeguards, tourist information offices, local coastguard stations, or even local fishermen, on where and when it is not safe to stroll on the beach or enter the water
Do not swim near or dive from rocks, piers, breakwater and coral
Water safety signage can be very different in different countries, so find out what local warning flags and signs mean — and adhere to them
Inflatable dinghies or lilos are a well-known hazard — there have been drownings as people on inflatables are blown out to sea and get into trouble. Do not use them in open water. Use them in sheltered and confined spaces, such as rock pools
If you get stuck in quicksand or mud do not stand up. Lie down, spread your weight, shout for help and move slowly in a breaststroke action towards the shore
If you witness an emergency, whether it is in the UK or overseas, know how to call for help
Don't put yourself
Ask for Coastguard
Definition — Rip currents are currents of water typically flowing from the shoreline back out to sea. They are commonly formed by a build-up of water on the beached caused by wave and tidal motion but can also form where an estuary runs into the sea.
How to Escape
Call for help
If you have a buoyant aid (like a surfboard or inflatable), keep hold of it
Do not swim against the current
Swim parallel to the shore — this makes sure that you are swimming out of and not back into the rip current
Once out of the rip current, swim towards the shore, being careful to avoid being drawn back in by feeder currents
When you visit the beach, make sure it is a life-guarded beach and that you swim between the flags (find out more on safety flags on the RLSS website). Always make sure you keep an eye on children and ask your beach if they have a local wristband scheme which helps identify children if they wander off
Digging in the sand: although usually harmless, digging large holes can be dangerous if the sand caves in. Avoid digging tunnels or deep pits below waist height and fill in any holes you dig before you leave the beach.
Inflatables: inflatables can be swept out to sea by currents and offshore winds. If you get swept out to sea stay with your inflatable and shout for help. If you see an inflatable that’s been blown away to sea, call 999 Coastguard.
Check Tide Times
Carry means to
Call for Help
In the UK tides are relatively regular and predictable, yet despite this fact every year a number of people are caught out by rapidly rising water and end up being trapped in isolated bays. If you intend to venture across any beach or bank affected by tidal water, make sure you know when the incoming tide is expected and know where all the exits are.
Be Aware of
Sun Stoke or Burn
British beach flag signs
It must be remembered that beach flag systems are different across the world. However, current discussions are taking place to hopefully co-ordinate the flags for the future.
Don’t go into the water
Red half over yellow Lifeguarded area — swim between the flags
Orange wind sock Shows the direction of the wind. If the wind is blowing out to sea do not go into the water on an inflatable (NB Advice is never to go into the sea on an inflatable)
Black and white quarters Surfing area, swimmers keep out
Red and white quarters Shark warning (unusual in this country)