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What are Rip Currents? How can you stay safe?

A rip current is a strong, narrow current of water that flows away from the shore, typically perpendicular to the shoreline. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, and they are most common at low tide. Rip currents are caused by the way waves break on the shore. Rip currents are a common hazard at beaches around the world.

Image credit: NOAA Ocean Today (modified)

When waves break, they push water towards the shore. This water then has to find a way to get back out to sea. Rip currents form when this water flows through a narrow channel, such as a break in a sandbar.

Rip currents can be dangerous because they can quickly pull swimmers away from shore. If you are caught in a rip current, it is important to stay calm and follow these steps:

· Stay calm. Panicking will only make it harder to escape the current.

· Float or tread water. Don't try to swim against the current. It will only tire you out.

· Swim parallel to the shore. Once you are out of the current, you can swim back to shore.

· Signal for help. If you can, wave your arms and shout for help.

· Don't try to fight the current. Rip currents are typically only a few feet wide, and they will eventually dissipate.

· If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and float or tread water. Once you are out of the current, you can swim back to shore.

· If you see someone caught in a rip current, call for help and throw them a flotation device. Do not try to swim out to rescue them yourself.

· If you are a lifeguard, be aware of the rip currents on your beach and be prepared to rescue swimmers who are caught in them.

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