Knowing rip current safety could save your life

What a rip current looks like.
What a rip current looks like.(WSFA 12 News)
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 9:42 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A great day at the beach could end in devastation if you don’t know what to do in a rip current.

A rip current is water returning back to the Gulf.

“They can be dangerous if they’re a non-swimmer or a weak swimmer, or even if they can swim, they don’t know what’s happening and they feel themselves getting pulled out to sea and they panic and they try to fight it,” Wil Spivey, Beach Safety Director for Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, said.

Some currents are much stronger than others and knowing how to swim when you’re in one can save your life. Swimming sideways allows you to get out of that narrow channel of water.

“If you feel yourself getting pulled out to sea and that’s not where you want to go, I recommend you swim sideways along the beach,” Spivey said.

Understanding the warning signs before heading into the water are also important.

Spivey says a big part of a lifeguard’s job is to educate the public on when they should and should not enter the Gulf.

The water might seem calm but rip currents can happen at any time of the year.

“We do have the text-alert system,” Spivey said. “Our crews are out trying to prevent problems and incidents and to educate the public.”

There are also beach warning flags.

Yellow means there is a medium hazard in place. A red flag means there’s a high hazard and a double red-hazard flag means the water is closed to the public.

If you try to swim during double red flags you could not only get hit with a fine but also risk your life.

If you see someone drowning, officials say to dial 911 immediately.

They also say swimming out to save someone in a dangerous rip current could put yourself in danger as well.

You can text PBCFLAGS to 888-777 to receive daily flag conditions.

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