Main Beach Safety

Main Beach Safety

beach safety deviceThe Central Elgin Beach Patrol believes in promoting public awareness and aquatic safety. This page contains a brief outline and explanation of some processes that may occur while you are visiting the beach.

As well, the Beach Patrol has included some helpful safety tips to make your day at the beach more enjoyable.
Mishaps are a result of lack of safety knowledge.

The Central Elgin Beach Patrol recommends the following safety tips:

  • Learn to swim
  • Swim near a lifeguard
  • Never swim alone
  • Supervise children closely, lifeguards are not baby sitters
  • Don't rely on flotation devices, such as rafts, you may lose them in the water
  • Wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD)
  • If caught in a rip current, swim sideways until free, don't swim against the current's pull
  • Alcohol and swimming don't mix
  • Stay clear of the boat and personal water craft (PWC) lanes. Swim in the designated areas
  • Protect your head, neck, and spine -- NEVER dive into unfamiliar waters – feet first, first time
  • If you are in trouble, call or wave for help
  • Follow regulations and lifeguard directions
  • Wear lots of sunscreen and protective clothing to shield the harmful effect of the sun
  • Swim parallel to shore if you wish to swim long distances
  • Scuba dive only if trained and certified -- and stay within the limits of your training
  • No glass containers at the beach -- broken glass and bare feet don't mix
  • No beach fires -- fire residue and superheated sand can severely burn bare feet
  • -BAR-B-Q at the pavilion only-
  • Report hazardous conditions to lifeguards
  • Stay clear of coastal bluffs, they can collapse and cause injury
  • Never turn your back to the water
  • Stay clear of the pier. Its location can contribute to significant currents
  • Swim during the hours that the beach is guarded by the Beach Patrol, and heed their advice.
  • If you are unsure – ask a lifeguard!

BEACH FLAG CODES
The Central Elgin Beach Patrol is ON DUTY whenever the flags are flying regardless of the flag colour, water or weather conditions.

solid greenGREEN
conditions are good - safe to swim.

solid yellowYELLOW
CAUTION conditions are poor - possible undertow, rip tides and/or lateral currents
Swimming is risky - swimmers should remain close to shore. (may also indicate the presence of higher than normal levels of bacteria - check with Beach Patrol)

solid redRED
DANGER conditions are poor - strong rip tides, undertows and lateral currents
Swimming is dangerous, swimmers are advised to swim at their own risk.

* conditions can refer to water or weather

RIP CURRENTS

diagram of a riptide currentA rip current is a lakeward moving  “river” of water caused by sandbars located parallel to and offshore.

As the water volume increases between the sandbars and the shore, the water flowing back into the lake from breaking waves forms a channel through the weakest part of a sandbar.

The current is weakest right near the shore, strongest at the “break-through” point, and quickly dissipates after passing the break into deeper water.

The strength of the rip currents varies depending on the cause. However, they can quickly move swimmers into dangerous situations.

The stronger the wind, the larger the surf and the greater the run-back, the stronger the rip current.

 
 
HOW WOULD SOMEONE CAUGHT IN A  RIP TIDE FREE THEMSELVES?
diagram of swimming out of a rip tide
Rip currents are often strong enough to pull even the best swimmers seaward. The best method of escape would be to swim perpendicular to the pull of the rip, then swim to shore with the waves once you are significantly free from its effects.
It is important to move a considerable distance from the rip current so as not to be fed back into it from by the strong lateral (parallel to shore) currents.

Even with this knowledge, swimmers may still find themselves in a dangerous situation. Therefore, it is best to swim on a guarded beach with a qualified, experienced Beach Patrol.

If at any time you find yourself caught in a rip current and are unable to free yourself, turn to face the shore, look in the direction of one of the Beach Patrol Lifeguard towers and wave your arms in the direction of the Beach Patrol Lifeguard. Stay calm and concentrate on keeping your head above the water.

The Central Elgin Beach Patrol is highly trained in Rip Current Rescues and they employ specialized techniques to bring you safely back to the shore.

LATERAL CURRENTS

Because of the location of the pier and the way the waves often strike the beach, Port Stanley is constantly subjected to the effects of lateral currents.

Lateral currents move in a direction parallel to the shore. The current moves in the same direction as the force created by the waves and wind conditions.

These lateral currents can be particularly strong in Port Stanley and can very quickly carry swimmers out of the immediate area into deeper and far more dangerous waters.

Lateral currents are also formed near rip tide currents as the water flows into the rip and then lakeward.
Lateral currents often resemble the effects of a shallow fast moving river.

HOW WOULD SOMEONE CAUGHT IN A LATERAL CURRENT FREE THEMSELVES?

Move with the current diagonally toward the shore.

Try to regain your footing. Often the Port Stanley lateral currents are formed in shallow water, although they do exist in deeper waters offshore as well.

If you find yourself experiencing trouble in a lateral current and are unable to free yourself, wave your arms in the direction of the Beach Patrol Lifeguard. Stay calm and concentrate on keeping your head above the water.
The Central Elgin Beach Patrol is highly trained in Lateral Current Rescue and employ specialized techniques to bring you safely back to the shore.

UNDERTOW

An undertow is also known as a run back current, created by the volume of water moving back to the lake after striking the shore. The undertow is influenced by many factors, the most common are wind, waves and bottom conditions.

An undertow is created when water on the beach attempting to return to the lake dislodges sand, causing swimmers standing near shore to lose their footing.

You may experience the sensation of your feet being pulled from under you, hence the term UNDERTOW. The waves moving toward the shore on the surface, combined with the lakeward movement of the bottom current, knocks swimmers over.

Once a swimmer has lost their footing in the loose sand, they can very quickly be pulled into deeper water.

HOW WOULD SOMEONE CAUGHT IN AN UNDERTOW CURRENT FREE THEMSELVES?

Since the force of the undertow is usually only present for a short distance, swimmers should allow themselves to be carried out by the current while moving diagonally to the surface.

Many swimmers attempt to fight the current and swim directly back into it. This results in fatigue which is dangerous once the swimmer is carried into deeper water. Instead, once you have surfaced, regain your senses and try to swim back to the shore WITH the next set of waves.

If you find yourself experiencing trouble in an undertow and are unable to free yourself, turn to face the shore, look in the direction of one of the Beach Patrol Lifeguard towers and wave your arms in the direction of the Beach Patrol Lifeguard. Stay calm and concentrate on keeping your head above the water.

The Central Elgin Beach Patrol is highly trained in Undertow Rescues and employ specialized techniques to bring you safely back to the shore.

INSHORE HOLES

Inshore holes, often near shore, are depressions (which can measure several metres in diameter), dug into the sand by wave action. They can occur at any depth. Swimmers can easily step from ankle deep water into depths over their head.
Swimmers should follow the safety guidelines listed on this site and ask the Beach Patrol about hazardous areas in order to avoid getting into trouble.

summer at central elgin

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