Safety Tips

Whether you're a seasoned beachgoer or a first-time visitor, understanding these safety tips is crucial for enjoying your time along our beautiful shores.

Dive into our comprehensive recommendations to ensure your visit is both fun and safe.

General Information on Drowning

Drowning was the sixth leading cause of accidental death in the United States and the third leading cause of accidental death for persons aged 5 to 44 in 2010. For children in the 1-4 year age range, drowning was the leading cause of injury death. In some states, like California, Florida, and Hawaii, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for persons under 15 years of age.

Death by drowning is only the tip of the iceberg for aquatic injury. It has been found that for every ten children who die by drowning, 140 are treated in emergency rooms, and 36 are admitted for further treatment in hospitals. Some of these never fully recover.

Males drown at a significantly higher rate than females (about 5 to 1). For boat related drownings, the ratio escalates to about 14 to 1.

(Statistics courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and United States Lifesaving Association)

12 Beach and Water Safety Tips

1. Learn to Swim

Your best insurance against drowning is learning to swim.

If you cannot master the complete technique, at least learn to tread water so you can yell or wave your arms for attention should you find yourself in difficulty. Never overestimate your swimming ability.

Don’t rely on inner tubes, plastic air mattresses, or other inflatable toys. Too many times the unexpected happens – the inflatable springs a leak, you lose your balance or someone accidentally tips you over. Whatever the cause, the result is the same – you suddenly find yourself in water over your head with the inflatable out of reach. For a non-swimmer, this may prove fatal.

Teach children to swim at an early age. Children who are not taught when they are very young tend to avoid swim instruction as they age, probably due to embarrassment. Swimming instruction is a crucial step to protecting children from injury or death.

2. Swim Near a Lifeguard

USLA statistics over a ten year period show that the chance of drowning at a beach without lifeguard protection is almost five times as great as drowning at a beach with lifeguards. USLA has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million (.0000055%).

3. Stay Away from Rocks

Rocks present special hazards to swimmers. Piers and Jetties act as the perfect environment for the formation of Rip Currents, which are the number one cause of open water drownings worldwide. For more information on Rip Currents, visit our informational page.

Barnacles and other sea life tend to make these structures their homes, increasing the possibility for stings, bites, and cuts when swimmers get near them.

4. Swim with a Buddy

Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At the very least have someone onshore watching you.

5. Check with the Lifeguards

Lifeguards work continually to identify hazards that might affect you. They can advise you on the safest place to swim, as well as places to avoid. They want you to have a safe day. Talk to them when you first arrive at the beach and ask them for their advice.

6. Use Sunscreen and Drink Water

Everyone loves a sunny day, but exposure to the sun affects your body. Without sunscreen, you can be seriously burned. The sun’s rays can also cause life-long skin damage and skin cancer. To protect yourself always choose “broad spectrum” sunscreen rated from 15 to 50 SPF, or clothing that covers your skin, and reapply sunscreen regularly throughout the day.

The sun can also dehydrate you quickly. Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, which contributes to dehydration. Lifeguards treat people for heat exhaustion and heat stroke from time to time. If you feel ill, be sure to contact a lifeguard.

7. Obey Posted Signs and Flags

It sometimes seems as though there are too many signs, but the ones at the beach are intended to help keep you safe and inform you about local regulations. Read the signs when you first arrive and please follow their direction. Flags may be flown by lifeguards to advise of hazards and regulations that change from time to time. You can usually find informational signs explaining the meaning of the flags, or just ask the lifeguard.

8. Keep the Beach and Water Clean

Nobody likes to see the beach or water littered with trash. Even in places where beach cleaning services pick up trash daily, it may linger on the beach for hours, causing an unsightly mess and threatening the health of birds, animals and beach-goers. Do your part. Pick up after yourself and leave the area cleaner than you found it. Everyone will appreciate you for it.

9. Learn Rip Current Safety

USLA has found that some 80% of rescues by USLA affiliated lifeguards at ocean beaches are caused by rip currents. These currents are formed by surf and gravity, because once surf pushes water up the slope of the beach, gravity pulls it back. This can create concentrated rivers of water moving offshore. Some people mistakenly call this an undertow. But there is no undercurrent, just an offshore current.

If you are 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.

10. Enter Water Feet First

Serious, lifelong injuries, including paraplegia, occur every year due to diving headfirst into unknown water and striking the bottom. Bodysurfing can result in a serious neck injury when the swimmer’s neck strikes the bottom. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, then go in feet first the first time; and use caution while bodysurfing, always extending a hand ahead of you.

11. Wear a Life Jacket

Some 80% of fatalities associated with boating accidents are from drowning. Most involve people who never expected to end up in the water, but fell overboard or ended up in the water when the boat sank. Children are particularly susceptible to this problem and in many states, children are required to be in life jackets whenever they are aboard boats.

12. Don’t Swim at the Ends of the Island

The far East end and far West end of Galveston Island are especially dangerous areas to swim. On the Eastern tip of the Island, the bottom drops off rapidly into the Houston-Galveston Ship Channel, averaging 50ft deep. The wake from passing ships can cause sudden currents and breakers that can catch swimmers off guard. On the Western tip of the Island, strong tidal currents create deep channels and shifting sands. Swimmers and wading fisherman can easily step into deep water and get caught in strong currents. Entering the water at both areas is prohibited.

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