While the crush of Memorial Day weekend is over, summer in Charleston has just begun. And chances are you are spending some time at the beach. After all, what's the point of living or vacationing here if you don't get some sand between your toes.
You should know that the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission provides about 60 lifeguards at the Isle of Palms, the Folly Beach Fishing Pier and Kiawah Beachwalker Park in an effort to reduce the number of beach accidents.
But our lifeguards, as well-trained as they are, still are no substitute for knowing some practical tips so that you can do your part to stay safe and not need their help. Plus, the areas that the lifeguards cover are just a small part of our national treasure.
So on Saturday, in conjunction with National Beach Safety Week, various beach safety demonstrations will be held at Isle of Palms County Park and Kiawah Beachwalker Park.
Park staff will hand out information on beach safety and marine life, along with demonstrations such as a swim rescue scenario and board rescue scenario. Activities will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Beach-goers and the general public are encouraged to attend for tips to have a safe summer season.
They will cover things you might not know, like what to do if you are caught in a rip current, which is a faster current that moves away from the shore and can drag you out to sea. Or what to do if you are watching someone in trouble.
Do you know what the warning flags mean when the lifeguards put them out? There are flags for thunderstorms and flags for odd things in the water.
They also will reinforce some seemingly obvious tips, like never swimming alone and not diving into the surf because a sandbar may make the waves shallower than you think. And most importantly, that you have to watch toddlers and small animals playing in the surf because a single wave can overpower them, and they can get into trouble in the blink of an eye.
Then, of course, there are the various forms of wildlife at the beach. And lifeguards will remind people that almost everything associated with the sea has a mouth, a sting or a claw to defend itself. That means a jellyfish sting or stepping on a sharp shell can mean a trip to the emergency room and an end to the family's vacation plans.
I can't say enough good things about our local lifeguards. They start training in February and March at local pools and then are on to certifications.
We've had lifeguards at our beaches since 1976, and the U.S. Lifesaving Association has been the certifying agency for the Ocean Access Parks Lifeguard Program since 1994.
Each of the full-time employees, lifeguard supervisors and lifeguards are certified as Emergency Medical Responders. The Ocean Rescue lifeguards cover about 11/2 miles of beach along three barrier islands in the Charleston area: Kiawah Island, Folly Beach, and the Isle of Palms.
If you will pay attention and attend one of their free presentations, you will find the beach is a much safer place, even if you go wandering and swimming far down the beach, away from their watchful eyes.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5557.