"Ocean Smart" Guide and Beach Flags

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"Ocean Smart" Guide

Learn to Swim

  • Learning to swim is the best defense against drowning.
  • Teach children to swim at an early age

Swim Near a Lifeguard

  • Drowning is very rare in lifeguard-supervised areas of Clearwater Beach. Most water related fatalities occur in unsupervised settings distant from lifeguard towers.
  • Lifeguard towers are staffed each day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (September-March) and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (March-August). Towers are located along a one mile stretch of beach from Clearwater Pass to Bay Esplanade.

Never Swim Alone

  • Always swim with a companion. At the very least, have someone onshore who can call for help.

Rip Currents - Break the grip of the rip posterDon't Fight the Current

  • Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore. They can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. If caught in a rip current, don't fight it by trying to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to shore until you feel the current relax, then swim to shore. Most rip currents are narrow, and a short swim parallel to shore will bring you to safety.
  • The same forces that cause rip currents also cause long shore currents. These currents are most evident when waves hit the shore at an angle. This tends to cause the water to be pushed along the beach away from the direction of the oncoming waves. Usually, long shore currents are less hazardous than rip currents because they move along the shore, not away from the shore, but they can knock children and weaker adults off their feet. More importantly, long shore currents can feed and increase the power of rip currents. In other words, the long shore current may move along the shore, then turn offshore to become a rip current.

Swim Sober

  • Alcohol is a major factor in drowning. Alcohol impairs swimming ability and good judgement.

Don't Float Where You Can't Swim

  • Often, non-swimmers dangerously use flotation devices to go offshore, If they fall off, they can quickly drown. The only exception is a person wearing a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

Life Jackets = Boating Safety

  • Eighty percent of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water. Children are at the greatest danger. Use life jackets.

Don't Dive Headfirst, Protect Your Neck

  • Diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom can lead to serious, lifelong injuries, including paraplegia. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, and then go in feet first the first time. Use caution while body surfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.

At Home, You're the Lifeguard

  • Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in many states for children age one and two. A major reason for this is home pools, which can be death traps for toddlers. Many of these deaths occur in the few moments it takes a parent to answer a telephone or doorbell. NEVER leave a child alone anywhere near a pool. Make sure it is completely fenced, that the fence is locked, and that there is no access from the home to the pool. Don't let your child or a neighbor's child get into the pool when you're not there.

Understand Beach Warning Flags

Flags posted on the beach and flying from lifeguard towers represent ocean hazards and surf conditions. Please remember that ocean conditions can change quickly. Check with the lifeguard on duty if you are unsure of safe conditions. (Click on image for large PDF version)

Beach Warning Flags Poster Green Flag 

  • Low hazard with the possibility of larger waves and rip currents. Exercise normal care. Image of Beach Flags

Yellow Flag

  • Medium hazard with moderate rip currents/surf conditions. Use extra care.

Red Flag

  • High hazard. Dangerous rip currents/surf conditions. Avoid entering the water.

Double Red Flag

  • Water and or beach closed to the public

Purple Flag

  • Sea pests present (jellyfish, man-of-wars, and/or sea lice). This flag may be flown along with any of the other flags.

You can learn more about Florida's Beach Warning Flag Program at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/cmp/programs/flags.htm.