Beach Patrol To Wrap Up Coverage Season This Weekend

Beach Patrol To Wrap Up Coverage Season This Weekend
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Ryan Cowder

Special To The Dispatch

OCEAN CITY — I have really enjoyed spreading the word about beach safety each week in The Dispatch. The beach patrol and I really appreciate the commitment of Editor Steve Green and the opportunity to work together to get the safety message out to the public. I wanted to recap some important beach safety tips since this is my last article of the 2016 season as the last day for lifeguards stands on the beach is Sunday.

There is no question that only swimming when lifeguards are on duty and swimming in front of a lifeguard is the basic and most important action one can take to ensure beach safety. It seems easy enough, but late in the fall season when our beach coverage is about 20 percent of peak season, I keep seeing people that have not gotten the message. As our mobile units tour up and down the beach on our ATV’s, we see a large number of people that go out to the beach and swim dead center between two lifeguards. Our guards are constantly trying to corral people to get them to swim near their stand. Rip currents are unpredictable and simply put; it just makes sense to be close to the expert, the lifeguard, when in need.

Another important tip that is even more obvious than swimming near a lifeguard is learning to swim. Learning to swim is one of the best things people can do to protect themselves from drowning. Studies show that people learn to swim best during childhood, which makes it a parent’s responsibility to make sure their children learn to swim. If someone does not know how to swim, they should not be in the ocean. Period.

Unfortunately, we have rescues where people are pulled into deeper water by a rip current to find out that the person cannot swim. Once someone begins to panic and actively drown, they generally have 10-60 seconds until the situation becomes grave. With so many currents and unknowns in the ocean, people should not be in the ocean if they do not know how to swim. Knowing how to swim and understanding how a rip current works will give you the needed tools to be a successful swimmer in the ocean.

The last tip I would like to leave you with pertains to rip currents. If you find yourself caught in a rip, don’t panic or fight the current. Swim out of the current by swimming parallel to shore and then in to shore. If you are unable to swim out of the current, just float and tread water and call or wave for assistance. If you are on a guarded beach, help will be on its way.

The Ocean City Beach Patrol, Ocean City Police Department, OC Fire and EMS, Ocean City Communications and all the public safety workers have done a tremendous job this season. Furthermore, many of the media outlets have also been invaluable in helping the beach patrol serve its mission by educating the public through the use of these publications. We all know that having the knowledge necessary to prepare yourself is the first step in any situation. I truly hope that you have used these articles to your benefit.

Thanks for reading and have a great winter season. For more information on the Ocean City Beach Patrol and Beach safety tips, you can log on to our website To get current information about the beach patrol as well as daily stats and current beach conditions, you can follow the beach patrol on Twitter, Instagram or “like us” on the Official OCBP Facebook page. Remember, “Keep your feet in the sand till the lifeguards in the stand.” So please don’t let someone you love enter the ocean when the SRT’s are not on duty. It is not only dangerous to them but may put others in danger if they attempt to help you in an emergency.

Captains Note: I also want to thank The Dispatch for allowing us to have a weekly safety feature. The beach patrol’s mission has three focuses — education, prevention and intervention. Without a doubt, the most obvious and the one that attracts the most attention is intervention when one of our guards blows a whistle, jumps off the stand, runs down the beach, and then swims out to rescue a swimmer in distress. Although this happens several thousand times each season, it is not our major focus but rather it is prevention of accidents and injuries through our educational outreach efforts and programs that we make our number one priority.

That is why each week we use this space to try and educate all of the readers of The Dispatch. I truly believe that through the exposure in this newspaper that many lives have been saved and will continue to be saved because someone has read the article or passed on the information that they learned to others. So if you have enjoyed this column and have learned any new information about beach or water safety, not only pass it on to others but take the time to thank the editors of The Dispatch. Have a safe winter and we will see you Memorial Day Saturday 2017.

(The writer has been with the Beach Patrol for 18 years and is currently a sergeant. He is an assistant principal at Stephen Decatur High School.)