By Peter Davis, Chief Galveston Island Beach Patrol/ Park Board Police Dept.
It’s easy to let down your guard when you’re having fun at the beach or anywhere near the water. This is where the Galveston Island Beach Patrol (GIBP) comes in. The GIBP is certified as an “advanced” level agency of the United States Lifesaving Association and is the designated lifeguard service for the city of Galveston. Working with our partners in the police, fire, and EMS departments, our highest priority is to get each beach visitor home safely.
Top 10 beach safety tips:
1. Swim near a lifeguard. We’re out there from early morning until dark throughout the summer at the large beach parks and along the seawall, so it shouldn’t be hard to find the right place. The guard is an added layer of protection, although you are still responsible for your own safety. Feel free to approach guards and ask about local beach conditions or Galveston attractions. They are there not only to protect you, but to serve as ambassadors for all Galveston Island has to offer.
2. Stay away from the rocks and the ends of the island. You could be caught in a dangerous rip or tidal current.
3. Don’t swim alone. Your buddy can call or wave for help if you can’t.
4. Don’t dive in head first. Avoid the chance of a head or neck injury.
5. Observe warning signs and flags. Ours are all bilingual and use icons.
6. Non-swimmers and children should use lifejackets when in our around the water.
7. Alcohol and water don’t mix. Many of the beaches here are alcohol-free, but if you choose to drink, try to remember that even though you feel invincible, you’re not.
8. Take precautions from the heat and sun. This means loose-fitting clothing and a hat, sunscreen with a high SPF, good sunglasses, and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.
9. Remember the beach isn’t a pool or pond. There are currents, marine life, and the bottom is uneven with troughs and drop-offs. You should be much more careful and be sure not to exceed your ability.
10. Be aware of these quick home remedies for common beach injuries:
Jellyfish Sting – Wash with saline water, remove tentacles, if any, using a glove or cloth, and treat for pain. Saltwater works fine instead of saline water, and my favorite pain management strategy is ice. With kids you need only to worry if they have difficulty breathing. Stomach cramps are a normal response to sudden pain. It’s also extremely rare to have an allergic reaction, so try to relax! It really will get better in a few minutes.
Stingray – Usually a small puncture on the ankle or foot that hurts like crazy. Put the affected area in a bucket of really hot water, but make sure it’s not hot enough to burn the skin. It will ease the pain immediately. After 20 minutes or so, go to a doctor for cleaning, tetanus shot, and antibiotics. ALL stingray stings get infected, and there can be a tiny piece of that barb in there that will cause problems later. Shuffle your feet while out there and you won’t get stung in the first place. For that matter, you’ll also scare off other marine life by shuffling your feet to let them know you’re coming.
Cuts – We all love the beach, but it’s loaded with bacteria. Even small cuts will get infected if not thoroughly cleaned soon after.
Above all, remember the beach is a wonderful place, and as long as you observe a few safety precautions you’ll have the time of your life. Go have fun and focus on family, friends, recreation, and making memories. Just do it safely!