How Can Kids Stay Safe At The Beach?
With the Summer Holidays and scorching beach days here, we’ve teamed up with our local lifeboat station at RNLI Littlestone-on-Sea to discuss all things beach safety.
We chatted with Matt Crittenden, Littlestone-on-Sea’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, for his best beach safety advice (as demonstrated by RNLI Robin Doll).
What Are Your Top Beach Safety Tips?
Once you've packed everything for a day at the seaside, it's time to get acquainted with your surroundings.
“If you’re visiting the beach, the first thing to do is make yourself aware of the location you’re visiting. Look for any relevant signage - you usually find on a popular beach that either the local council or the RNLI have signage up with various warnings on them,” says Matt.
RNLI Lifeguarded Beaches
Have you ever considered visiting an RNLI lifeguarded beach? Matt suggests that parents go online to use the RNLI’s Beach Finder and head to a lifeguarded beach. The Beach Finder lists the nearest lifeguarded beaches and gives handy information such as the times and dates of the lifeguard patrols and a description of the beach.
“When on a lifeguarded beach, you need to swim between the red and yellow beach safety flags as that’s the safe bit of water with no rip currents. If you did get into trouble there, a lifeguard is going to be with you very quickly,” he adds.
Be Safe In The Sun
The sun can be as dangerous as getting into trouble in the water, so make sure you look after yourselves.
"If the sun’s out, ensure you have plenty to drink, are wearing a hat, and are covered up," says Matt. He further stresses the importance of this, saying that “sunburn can cause an incident and require someone to come to you if you start to suffer from sunstroke whilst at the beach.”
There's no need to worry about losing your cheeky rascals thanks to tag wristbands!
“If you’re a parent taking young children to the beach, some beaches operate a tag system where they give you a little wristband to put on your child. Each wristband has a number, so that if your child gets lost or disappears, whoever finds them can ring the number. You can even bring your own wristband and add your mobile number onto it,” Matt suggests.
If your little sea swimmer loves bobbing along the waves with rubber rings or lilos, take extra care.
“Keep an eye on your children if they’re using inflatables. Make sure there’s no offshore wind and buy a long piece of rope to attach to the inflatable and then tie it to something secure - such as Granny’s leg!” says Matt.
What Should I Do If A Child Gets Into Danger When At The Beach?
The first thing to do is stay calm and don't panic if you spot a child in danger.
“If you see a child in danger (particularly your own) there’s this massive urge to run into the sea and save your child. Surprisingly, stats tell us that the rescuer often becomes the victim in these situations, so the best thing to do is dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard,” Matt explains.
Matt further adds that “if you’re on a lifeguarded beach, the lifeguard will be there before you are so I recommend always picking a lifeguarded beach.” In the UK, there are over 250 lifeguarded beaches, 183 of which are RNLI lifeguarded.
How Can I Avoid Getting Stranded?
Being stranded in the wrong place at the wrong time can be extremely dangerous, especially when the tides are quick to come in.
“Once again, local knowledge is key. When you go to the beach, check out where you are. If you’re not local to that beach, look at the signs and speak to local people,” advises Matt.
Matt recommends to not go walking around cliff edges. "If you’re at a bay and there are cliffs on either side, resist the temptation to go off. If you decide to walk around there and the tide comes in, you may get stuck and get into trouble very quickly," he says.
Are There Any Hidden Dangers?
Are you aware of the hidden dangers at your local beach?
“Here at Littlestone, our beach is generally quite safe - we don’t have rip currents or strong currents. The tide comes in quite quickly but isn’t too deep. Mud is our problem here, so to get clued up on any hidden dangers it’s down to reading signage - you’ll find quicksand or mud dangers are well signposted.”
“If you do get stuck, don’t panic and try to stay as still as possible - the more you move and struggle, the more you’ll sink. Shout as loud as you can and move your arms backward and forwards in a cross shape to differentiate between just waving.”
Support Your Local RNLI
Every year, the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards rescue and save thousands of lives. In fact, over 143,000 lives have been saved since 1824. But, the RNLI is a charity that is predominantly funded by generous donations and run by volunteers.
Bigjigs Toys is only five minutes from the beautiful Folkestone coast and a short car journey away from the beaches of Hythe, Dymchurch and Romney Marsh, which all attract thousands of families every Summer.
RNLI Littlestone-on-Sea and its neighbour RNLI Dungeness cover the entire South East coastline from Dungeness to Dover, so their services are absolutely critical to the local community that we’re a part of.
Wherever you are in the UK, show your local RNLI some love and see what you can do to support them here.