Beach Safety

The NSW coastline is a beautiful and dynamic place. It can also be hazardous at times so knowing how to stay safe next time you visit the beach is essential.

Last year there were more than 6.4 million visits to NSW beaches. Our lifeguards and volunteer lifesavers performed over 5,000 rescues, 26,000 first aid treatments and 440,000 preventative actions. To make your next trip to the beach safer, be aware of some of the main hazards and follow these simple tips:

  • Always swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Read the safety signs
  • Ask a lifeguard or lifesaver for safety advice
  • Swim with a friend
  • If you need help, stay calm and attract attention by raising your arm above your head
  • Never enter the water if you have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of drugs
  • Wear sunscreen, seek shade and stay hydrated
  • Boat skippers and rockfishers should check the local forecast, seek advice from NSW Maritime and always wear a lifejacket
  • If witnessing an in-water emergency dial Triple Zero (000) – Police
  • For information on Beach conditions or to find a patrolled beach near you, check out the BeachSafe website or download the mobile app.
  • For more information on things to do near the beach, please see visit sydney.com and visitnsw.com.


Smurf Safety with Sally Fitzgibbons

Rip Currents

When waves break on a beach, they push water towards the shoreline. Once that water reaches the shore, it has to find a way to get back out to sea, and it does this by flowing into deeper channels in the surf zone. Once the water is in these deeper areas, it can flow back out to sea away from the shoreline. These deeper channels are called rip currents.

Here are some simple tips to spot a rip current:

  • rip currents will occur in deeper water, so it’s usually a darker colour compared to the white breaking waves over a sandbank.
  • Because the water is deeper, there will be fewer breaking waves which can give the appearance of a safer spot to swim
  • rip currents can move things like sand, seaweed, or debris back out through the waves.

Rip currents can be particularly dangerous if you don’t understand how they work. They can often lead to drowning when swimmers attempt to fight the current by trying to swim directly back to the shore, become exhausted and begin to panic. A rip current will not pull you underwater, if you get caught in a rip current stay calm and follow these simple steps:

  • relax – stay calm and float to conserve your energy.
  • raise – raise an arm and attract attention from the lifeguards or lifesavers.
  • rescue – the lifeguards or lifesavers will be on their way to help you.

More information on Rip Currents

Rock Fishing

Fishing from the rocks is a popular pastime, however it can also be very dangerous. By taking some simple precautions you can ensure your fishing experience is safe.

  • Check the weather before leaving home.
  • Always wear a lifejacket.
  • Wear light clothing and appropriate footwear.
  • Never fish alone.
  • If you need help, call Triple Zero (000) Police.

For more great tips for rock fishing visit the Safe Fishing website.

Marine Creatures

Bluebottle

Bluebottles are a very common stinger around Australia. They have a small blue air-filled sac and usually one single tentacle that can be more than a metre long.

For bluebottle stings:

  1. Wash off any remaining tentacles with seawater, or pick off with your fingers (they can’t usually sting through the tough skin on your fingers!)
  2. Immerse the patient’s sting in hot water (no hotter than can be easily tolerated)
  3. If local pain is not relieved or immersion facilities are not available, the application of cold packs or wrapped ice is also effective.

Blue Ringed Octopus

The blue ringed octopus is a beautiful, but deadly creature. Blue ringed octopus are commonly found in the shallow rock pools of the inter-tidal zone, hiding amongst the rocks. They can be extremely well camouflaged, only displaying their blue rings when threatened. The bite is usually painless, from a beak under the body. Numbness of the lips and tongue may occur with weakness and breathing difficulty developing rapidly. Severe untreated bites may lead to death. If someone is bitten you should:

  1. Contact EMERGENCY TRIPLE ZERO (000) immediately
  2. Proceed with CPR if necessary.
  3. Apply compression or immobilisation bandaging to the area.
  4. Spontaneous breathing usually returns in 3-10 hours.

Sharks

There are many types of sharks in Australian waters. Most are harmless to humans. Although humans fear sharks, they are an important part of the ecosystem and a natural inhabitant of the ocean.

There are some very simple tips you can use to minimise your chances of encountering a shark:

  • Avoid swimming at dawn and dusk
  • Avoid swimming at river mouths or in murky, discoloured waters
  • Avoid swimming in or around schools of baitfish
  • Swim between the flags so lifesavers or lifeguards can alert you to any potential hazards by the use of a shark alarm or loud hailer and rescue and first aid equipment is close at hand

More information on Marine Creatures