Experts in Horry County share beach, water safety tips - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Experts in Horry County share beach, water safety tips

After recent drownings in the Grand Strand, Horry County Police Department, and Myrtle Beach Police Department Beach Patrol are monitoring surf conditions in the Grand Strand. (Source: Katrina Helmer). After recent drownings in the Grand Strand, Horry County Police Department, and Myrtle Beach Police Department Beach Patrol are monitoring surf conditions in the Grand Strand. (Source: Katrina Helmer).
Tune into WMBF News at 5 a.m. to find out what to do if you're caught in a rip current, how to avoid water related accidents, fatalities and more. (Source: Katrina Helmer). Tune into WMBF News at 5 a.m. to find out what to do if you're caught in a rip current, how to avoid water related accidents, fatalities and more. (Source: Katrina Helmer).
Experts are shedding light on water safety do's and don'ts, and programs that improve swimming skills. (Source: Katrina Helmer). Experts are shedding light on water safety do's and don'ts, and programs that improve swimming skills. (Source: Katrina Helmer).

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - After recent drowning incidents in the Grand Strand, the Horry County Police Department and the Myrtle Beach Police Department Beach Patrol crews are monitoring surf conditions in the Grand Strand.

Whether you're a local or a first-time visitor, you need to pay attention to rip currents and beach warning flags. If you don't, your relaxing getaway to the ocean can turn into serious trouble.

Since last weekend, there have been a number of fatal accidental drownings. With that in mind, Myrtle Beach Police Department Beach Patrol Sergeant Phil Cain warns there are always inherent dangers at the beach.

Sgt. Cain recommends, first of all, that you never swim alone. And always swim during life guard hours, which are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Also, if you can't swim, don't go in the ocean, because the conditions are always changing. And for someone who does not know how to swim, you can become easily overwhelmed.

“We check with the National Weather Service daily to see what their forecasts are,” says Sgt. Cain. “They're able to give us a forecast prediction based on storm fronts and things like that. So, we try to stay on top of it. But it's always best to ask before you enter the water.”

It's best to check with lifeguards before because they'll post clear warnings with different colored flags at the beach. It's important you know what each one means. Different colors can mean everything from no swimming allowed to dangerous marine life being spotted. If you want to check out what all the flags mean, click here for the explanations.

It's important that you stay at least 100 feet away from piers, because you'll often find permanent rip currents there. There are markers on the beach so you know how far you can go.

So, if you're caught in a rip current, here are things you need to keep in mind: You must remain calm so you can conserve energy and think clearly, and never swim against the rip current towards shore. Stay floating and swim parallel to the shore.

If you see someone caught in a rip current, it is never recommended that you go in after them. Always call for a lifeguard or beach patrol first.

“If you decide to do that, we recommend that if you have a boogie board or a float or something to take with you, that way you would have some type of floatation device with you so that it both aides you and the person that you're trying to help. But we wouldn't recommend it initially,” says Sgt. Cain.

Remember, the most important thing is to stay calm, stay floating, and wave or yell to get someone's attention. If you ever have any questions, ask a lifeguard before jumping in.

Beach patrol officers say when they get called out to a water rescue, most of the time it's for someone who does not know how to swim. Even in shallow water, waves can easily knock small kids over and currents can drag them out into the ocean. That's why it's so important to be extra cautious and to sign your kids up for swim lessons.

The “Splash without Cash” program is a free swim class offered by the city of Myrtle Beach to teach water safety and survival to young kids. It's designed for kids ages 5 to 12 who have no idea how to swim. Registration is underway right now for the program that runs June 1 through 4 at the Canal Street Recreation Center. You must pre-register for the class because space is limited.

Program leaders say it is important kids have the knowledge necessary to save themselves, whether that's in a pool or the ocean or the lake. Because many times a parent can't get to them fast enough.

The cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach offer other week-long swim classes. The prices vary, but won't be any more than $60. Click here for information on swimming programs in North Myrtle Beach, and here for programs in Myrtle Beach.

Copyright 2015 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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