Sun, Surf and Safety Memorial Day Tips on Beach Safety, Surviving Rip Currents

Town of Hempstead beaches are popular spots for residents on Memorial Day weekend. To prepare for the approaching summer season and in recognition of National Beach Safety Week from May 23 to May 30, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and town ocean lifeguards are offering important beach safety tips and a demonstration on how to avoid being caught in a deadly rip current. Also at the beach demonstration were Councilwoman Angie Cullin, Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin.

Last summer, a number of tragedies occurred at beaches at nearby municipalities. Rip currents, a main cause of ocean drownings, are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from the shore. Typically, rip currents extend from the shoreline through the surf zone and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves. Deadly rip currents were prominent on our shores last summer, and the dangerous phenomenon is expected to threaten beachgoers again this year.

"Last summer was a sad one for Long Island, which lost several children to ocean drownings," Murray said. "We're here to help prevent tragedies from happening. To prepare for the summer season, we will be distributing a beach safety publication to every visitor to our ocean parks."

Covering three miles of shoreline in the Town of Hempstead, 150 ocean lifeguards work tirelessly to protect swimmers from danger. Individuals, families, school groups, clubs and organizations planning trips to the town's beaches are urged to take note of the hours when lifeguards are on duty. Starting on Saturday, May 28, ocean lifeguard coverage is limited to weekends and holidays until Sunday, June 19. Full ocean lifeguard coverage, when lifeguards are on duty seven days a week at Town of Hempstead beaches, starts on Monday, June 20 and ends on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5. When lifeguards are on duty, they are stationed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Some tips that Murray offered to swimmers who may find themselves caught in a rip current include: Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never fight against the current - think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off . . . you need to step to the side to escape the grip of the riptides. Swim out of the current in the direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle - away from the current - towards the shore. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards the shore. If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.

Murray and Cullin also offered other safety tips for beachgoers to keep in mind this weekend and throughout the summer.

  • Don't go in the ocean unless you know how to swim.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Obey all the rules of the beach.
  • Be cautious at all times.
  • If in doubt, don't go out.
  • Swim near a lifeguard.

"It is also important to keep in mind that many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current," observed Cullin. "If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim too. There are important steps people can take to help a victim caught in the rip, the most important of which is alerting lifeguards to the situation."

People seeking to help victims caught in a rip current are encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Get help from a lifeguard.
  • If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911.
  • Throw the rip current victim something that floats - a life-jacket, a cooler or an inflatable ball.
  • Yell instructions on how to escape.

In addition to the ocean safety brochure that is available to beachgoers at Town of Hempstead beaches, anyone can get a copy of the lifesaving guide by calling 516-812-3272. Further, Hempstead town also has a pool safety guide that is available by calling the same telephone number.

"Together we can get the word out to beachgoers and help prevent more drownings," Murray said.