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Play Safe Along Alabama’s Gulf Coast with 6 Beach Safety Tips

by Eugenia Lazaris

Jul 5, 2024

© Wirestock | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Alabama’s coastline is home to great communities like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that feature some of the most popular beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. Family travelers can stroll along the sugar-white sand looking for shells and sand dollars, swim and play in the surf, or even try parasailing.


After working and studying all year long, families want to enjoy their vacations, but while Alabama’s beaches are beautiful, using them isn’t without its potential dangers. Public beaches have lifeguards on duty each day from March through September, but beachgoers still need to do their part to be safe and enjoy the beach responsibly. To make sure your Alabama beach vacation is a dream come true rather than a nightmare, make sure you know the risks of swimming in the open water and know how to protect yourself from hidden dangers.


Understand the Beach Flag Warning System
Conditions in the water can change throughout the day, so pay close attention to the beach flag warning system. Different colored flags are posted at all public beaches signaling the current safety status. A yellow flag indicates a medium hazard with moderate surf and currents, a purple flag indicates the present of marine pests, and a red flag means the hazard is high with strong winds and strong currents. If you see double red flags, stay out of the water.


Beware of Rip Currents
If you’re headed into the water, make sure you know how to spot a riptide and what to do if you get caught in one. Look for calm spots in between waves and waves that crash parallel to the shore, rather than at an angle. Another telltale sign is a section of discolored water near the shore (this happens when the current is pulling out faster than the rest of the waves and dragging sand and sediment along with it).


If you are caught in one, the most important thing is not to panic. Instinct tells us to swim against the current, but fighting the current will quickly wear you out. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until you feel the current weaken, then swim at an angle until you reach the shore. If you are too tired to keep swimming, float and get the attention of a lifeguard if you need help.


Don’t Tempt the Marine Life
As much as we love swimming at the beach, so do the creatures that call it home. Kids may love shiny and sparkly swimsuits, which admittedly make it easier to spot them in the water, but those types of suits also mimic fish skin, which can attract unwanted marine life looking for a snack. Stay away from sequins and shiny material when choosing your family’s swimwear.


Take Advantage of Beach Services
Families should always scope out a spot on the beach near a lifeguard station to have extra support if needed. If you’re visiting Alabama Point East, one of the most popular and most family-friendly public beaches in Orange Beach, you can borrow life jackets (they are free to use and come in a variety of sizes) for added safety.


Don’t Forget Sunscreen
It isn’t just the water you have to be careful with. The sun can be just as dangerous, so bring plenty of sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and use a covering like a beach umbrella to avoid those dangerous UV rays.


Be Crime Savvy
On top of protecting yourself and your family from the water and the sun, you also want to watch out for your belongings. It’s tempting for the whole family to jump in the water to enjoy a swim together, but since we rarely go anywhere without things like our phones and wallets, we are at risk for thieves who may be on the lookout for unprotected valuables. Whenever possible, keep one person on the shore while the rest of the family enjoys the water so you don’t spend the rest of your vacation replacing lost items.


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