We’ve put together – with thanks to our friends at the Met Office and the RNLI – some top tips for making sure you and your family stay safe on the beach during your visit to Cornwall.
Not all of Cornwall’s beaches have lifeguard cover – and some of them will only have cover during the main summer months. On a lifeguarded beach there are trained professionals to help keep you all safe and are around to help if something goes wrong, in or out of the water.
You will see flags up on many Cornish beaches, and lifeguards may also refer to them over their tannoy systems or megaphones. The flags tell you whether it’s safe to go in the water, which activity it is safe to do, and where you can do it.
Red and yellow flags
Meaning: Lifeguarded area. This is the safest area to swim, bodyboard and use inflatables.
Black and white chequered flags
Meaning: For surfboards, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other non-powered craft. This is the launch and recovery area for kitesurfers and windsurfers. Never swim or bodyboard here.
Meaning: DANGER! Never go in the water under any circumstances when the red flag is flying.
This indicates offshore or strong wind conditions. Never use inflatables when the windsock is flying.
A rip current is a strong current running out to sea, which can quickly drag you out to sea.
Choose a lifeguarded beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags, which have been marked based on where is safer to swim in the current conditions.
If you do find yourself caught in a rip:
Before you or your family get in the water, it’s important to consider your ability and the conditions – the sea can be a very demanding environment and is different to swimming in a pool.
Every summer, the RNLI and Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) hold Swim Safe sessions for 7 – 14 year olds at selected beaches and lakes. The sessions are free and teach children vital skills to stay safe in and around open water.
If you or your family get into trouble in the water, make sure you and your family know to dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
A whistle is a simple and effective method of calling for help when close to shore. When venturing further offshore carry a suitable means of calling for help, such as a waterproof and fully charged VHF, or flares.
Don’t forget the international distress signal of hand waving and shouting for help.
Inflatable toys and airbeds can easily be swept out to sea. Seek advice from lifeguards to check if the beach and conditions are suitable.
If there is an offshore wind, don’t go out on inflatables. On a lifeguarded beach, look out for the orange windsock and don’t use inflatables if it’s flying.
If you do use inflatables at the beach:
If you’re at a lifeguarded beach, make sure you always bodyboard between the red and yellow flags.
Always wear your leash and hold onto your board if you get into trouble – it will help you float.
Children are safest when supervised.
As soon as you get to a beach, agree a meeting point in case of separation. If the beach runs a children’s safety scheme, using wristbands or tickets, take part. They’re free and they work. If you’re on an RNLI lifeguarded beach, visit the lifeguard hut on arrival and they can give you special wristbands to put your contact details on.
Make sure your children know where the lifeguards are, and that if they find themselves lost, to go and find a lifeguard as they will be able to help reunite them with you.
If a child does go missing:
The sun and UV (the strength of the sun) can be high at many times of the year, it doesn’t have to be hot or there may be cloud cover, so it is important that you check the forecast throughout the year and in different weather conditions.. Make sure children are covered up where possible, and have a good high factor sun cream on. Always reapply after being in the sea and regularly throughout the day.
A beach can seem like a vast playground but the tide can come in surprisingly quickly. To avoid getting cut off by the tide:
Before you head out, make sure it’s safe. Check the tide tables.
While you’re out, be aware of your surroundings and the tide’s direction.
If you do get cut off by the tide, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard.
With thanks to the Met Office website for this valuable summary of top tips, originally published here: