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Two lifeguards sit on top of an RNLI vehicle parked on the shoreline of a sandy beach. They are patrolling the choppy waves, and an RNLI rescue board is positioned next to them on the sand.

Beach safety

The beach is a fantastic place to be – but there can be hidden dangers too. If you’re heading to the seaside, discover our top five tips to help you and your family stay safe.
RNLI/Dean Wright
A female lifeguard is smiling and talking to a young boy on the beach.

1. Choose a lifeguarded beach

In 2023, RNLI lifeguards aided 19,979 people on the beach. Choosing to visit a lifeguarded beach gives you and your family the protection of highly trained lifesavers. They can see the dangers develop, prevent accidents before they happen and respond instantly if anyone gets into difficulty. 

RNLI lifeguards patrol over 239 beaches across the UK and Channel Islands. Find a lifeguarded beach near you or your holiday destination.

A phone with 999 being dialled, a beach in the background.

2. Call 999 or 112 in an emergency

When you go to the beach, always carry a means of calling for help. If you’re going in the water, you can carry your mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. That way, if you find yourself or spot someone else in an emergency situation, you can get help. 

In a coastal emergency, call 999 if you're in the UK or 112 if you're in Ireland and ask for the coastguard.

3. Float to Live

If you find yourself struggling in the water, or if you fall in unexpectedly, Float to Live. Relax and try to breathe normally. Tilt your head back and submerge your ears. Use your hands to help you stay afloat. Once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety.

It’s important to help children learn how to float too, and practise often somewhere safe – like a local swimming pool. Our video can help you learn more about teaching your child how to float so, if you’re visiting the coast, you and your loved ones can enjoy a safe and happy summer.  

You can sign your child up for a free Swim Safe session to help them learn important skills to keep themselves safe at the beach and in the sea.

4. Know the risks and what to do

When you’re heading to the beach, it’s important that you know the risks and what you can do to minimise them. From rip currents to tides, cold water shock to waves, being aware of the dangers will help you to stay safe.

One of the risks at the beach is rip currents. They are strong currents that can quickly drag you out to sea. Find out how to spot them in this video.

A male lifeguard is stood on the beach facing the sea with a red and yellow flag next to him.

5. Know your flags

If you visit a lifeguarded beach, there will be flags on the beach to show you where it’s safe to swim. If you’re planning to swim or bodyboard, stay between the red-and-yellow flags. For surfboards, stand-up paddleboards or other non-powered craft, go between the black and white chequered flag. You should not swim there.

If a red flag is flying, the water is dangerous. Do not enter the water under any circumstances.