A family beach vacation is where memories are made! While we all look forward to this quality time every year, to enjoy it to the fullest, we have to take steps to be sure it’s as safe as possible for our loved ones.d
Before visiting the beach, there are a few things that you’ll want to do. You’ll want to check surf and weather conditions before you arrive. If you are in Gulf Shores, you can call 251.968.TIDE or visit GulfShoresAL.gov and in Orange Beach call 251.981.SURF.
These are also the best ways to check daily beach flags. If you are not aware of the beach flag system, this is a key way to be sure of the surf safety during your visit.
• Green Flag means low hazard and calm conditions though you should still exercise caution
• Yellow Flag means medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents
• Purple Flag means dangerous marine life
• One Red Flag means high surf and/or strong currents
• Double Red Flag means that the water is closed to the public.
Under Gulf shores & Orange Beach city ordinances, it is illegal to enter the Gulf of Mexico within the corporate limits of either city when two red flags are displayed.
Another thing you’ll want to do before arriving at the beach is apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior. Remember to be very mindful of sunscreen when it comes to children and yourself! We can all lose track of time when enjoying the beach and we don’t realize how much sun we are getting typically until its too late. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and after getting wet. You’ll probably want to do this more frequently with children. If you do experience sunburn, be sure to drink lots of water along with soaking in a cool tub or applying cool compresses several times a day. Use aloe vera lotions but do not use petroleum jelly or oil-based lotions during this time. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help alleviate pain and/or swelling.
Once you arrive at the beach, you’ll want to drink plenty of water and protect your eyes with sunglasses. If you or someone with you experiences a jellyfish sting, you’ll want to wash it thoroughly with salt water and apply rubbing alcohol or vinegar to the area. Do not rub!
Lastly, even if you are strong swimmer in the pool, you’ll want to be very careful when dipping your toe in the Gulf of Mexico. While things may seem calm, currents lie below the surface and can pull experienced swimmers under and out to sea. Here’s a few points that may be helpful:
• Observe beach flags when heading into the water
• Don’t wander too far from shore and never swim alone.
• Don’t swim near piers, pilings, platforms or rocks.
• Be cautious when swimming between sandbars or near steep drop-offs.
• Diving seabirds are good indicators of areas to avoid.
• Alcohol and swimming do not mix.
• Avoid swimming or being in the water after dusk, nighttime or twilight hours.
• Avoid wearing shiny jewelry and clothing.
• Beware of rip currents. Learn more about this from the video link below from the Office for Coastal Management government agency.
o If caught in a rip current, remain calm. Fighting the rip current can exhaust you. Escape the current by swimming parallel to the shoreline. When free from the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – toward the shore.
o If unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.
o If you feel unable to reach the shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore and call or wave for help.
For more information about Rip Currents see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ4hcaJ91TY#action=share
We hope your visit to the area will be full of family fun and memories made. Be sure to prepare before arriving at the beach so your adventure will be a safe one as well!
Office for Coastal Management – US Ocean Service website
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism Website