Shark Week 2019 is upon us, and while one of TV’s longest-running and most anticipated summer series brings us remarkable insight into the mysterious world of these underwater creatures, it can surely create some genuine scares as well.
Whether you’re a Shark Week fan or anyone who patronizes local New Jersey beaches, shark attacks and beach safety should be taken seriously. Here are some tips for staying safe amid all types of situations and potential hazards.
Shark attacks are not overwhelmingly common, but they can and do happen. That’s especially true in the U.S., where there were 32 confirmed shark attack incidents in 2018, the most reported by any country. To plan for the unexpected, keep these tips in mind:
- Staying Calm – If by chance you do catch a glimpse of a shark at a local beach, do your best to remain as calm as possible. Rather than making fast movements or screaming, which can attract sharks and give off the signal of prey, calmly turn around and swim back toward the water, alerting others to do the same. Sharks can sense vibrations and smells, but they’re unable to see a person actually moving most of the time. Slowing down your movements can also conserve energy, which can ensure you’ll be able to react quickly if necessary.
- Prepare & Have a Plan – Whether it’s due to a shark attack or some other dangerous or unexpected event, it’s best to prepare for potential problems before hitting the beach. Take the time to plan out a meeting spot with your friends and family if you should somehow get separated, and familiarize yourself with local roads and nearby hospitals should you need to evacuate or seek medical attention.
- Learn First Aid – Although shark attacks may result in a number of physical injuries, what you do in the immediate aftermath of an attack, just as with any injury, can help keep victims in a stable condition while they await emergency care from professionals. Learning basic first aid can ensure you’re able to adequately treat wounds and stop the bleeding, a useful skill in any situation.
- Fighting Back – It may be a frightening scenario, but if a shark were to attack, you’ll need to fight back. Experts recommend striking sharks with quick, downward punches. The key is to let the animal know you’re not easy prey.
Other Beach Safety Tips
Apart from preparing for unexpected shark attacks, there are numerous other safety tips (including those that address more common risks) to keep in mind when hitting the beach this summer:
- Know Safe Times & Locations – Avoid swimming in the ocean at times and places where risks are most extreme, including heavy surf and rip-current days, early mornings when sharks are most likely to feed, and at locations where there are fisherman or other boaters nearby. It’s also important to swim in safe locations you know are monitored by lifeguards, and where your friends and family onshore can easily spot you. You should take the time to speak with lifeguards about any potential hazards in the area to avoid; they know the dangers at local beaches best.
- Get a Grasp on Swimming – If you don’t already have a solid grasp on your swimming skills, consider improving them or helping a loved one improve their skills before hitting the open waters. This includes taking classes, teaching children to swim at an early age, and ensuring you and your loved ones brush up on rusty swimming skills. Proper swimming technique is one of the best defenses against preventable downing.
- Use the Buddy System – An overwhelming majority of drownings involve single swimmers. When you use the buddy system, there’s always a person nearby who may be able to help, or who can alert others for assistance when it’s needed. If you can’t swim with a buddy, swim on beaches where there are other swimmers and lifeguards, and have someone onshore keep an eye out.
- Obey Any Postings – If there are signs or warnings posted at your local beach, be sure to read them carefully and abide by any regulations or rules they proscribe. Flags are also commonly used to advise of hazards which may change from time to time, including boating accident dangers, so keep a lookout for those as well.
- Stay Hydrated and Sun-Protected – Sunny days are why we love the beach, but exposure to the sun can cause painful burns and life-long skin damage. Be sure to wear sunscreen rated between 15 to 50 SPF and reapply throughout the day as needed. You can also dress in layers, wear hats, and keep an umbrella or other sun-protection product nearby. As important as wearing sunscreen is staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, as it can contribute to dehydration.
- Learn About Rip Currents – Rip currents are among the most common risks faced by swimmers on public beaches. In fact, the U.S. Lifesaving Association notes that as much as 80% of lifesaving scenarios on beaches involve rip currents. Formed by surf and gravity, rip currents can create concentrated rivers of offshore water, and risks for swimmers who find themselves unable to get out of moving waters. If you do get caught in a rip current, don’t fight to swim straight back to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the shoreline until you feel the current relax, then make your way to shore.
- Diving Safety – Whether you’ve been to a particular beach many times or are at a new spot, you’ll want to be careful about diving. Shallow waters and diving injuries can cause serious and permanent impairments, including brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis. Be sure to check water depth and any obstructions under the water, and enter feet first at least the first time.
While shark attacks are very uncommon in New Jersey, unfortunately attacks by domesticated animals happen all the time. While we believe preparation can be key to avoiding preventable injuries, we also know accidents can still happen, especially when others are negligent. If you have questions about your rights following an injury caused by another’s negligent or wrongful acts, our firm is available to help. Contact us today to see if we can assist you.