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It can happen in an instant.

On any given sunny day at the beach, a sinister threat lurks just beneath the breaking waves. In water waist deep, a mystery of the ocean can pull a full grown human out into deeper waters in the blink of an eye. The nefarious killer isn’t some unknown sea creature of monstrous abilities… but a natural phenomenon most commonly known as a riptide.

Riptides form where land or large structures meet the sea and create a fast moving current of water as the tide begins to recede back into the deep.

Every year, 100 people die in the US alone when a riptide, correctly called a rip current,pulls them out to deeper waters. The United States Lifesaving Association reports that rip currents are responsible for more than 80% of lifeguard rescues at beaches with breaking waves.

According to the New York Times, there are several ways to spot these riptides before you’re trapped in one.

1. A gap in the waves: not between one wave and the next, but within the line of the waves, perpendicular to the shore.

2. A channel of particularly choppy water or break in the waves.

3. A channel of seaweed or other debris visibly moving away from the shore.

4. Discolored water, caused by sand and other sediment picked up by the current.

IF you’re caught in a rip current don’t be afraid. These simple steps will lead you out of harms way.

1. Riptides, powerful as they are, tend to be narrow. Swim parallel to the shore until you break out of it.

2. Then follow the waves at an angle, back to land. The waves will help carry you and save your strength.

3. While swimming toward shore, alert life guards (and nearby surfers with their buoyant boards) by waving and shouting if possible. If you catch one’s attention, your chances of survival drastically increase.

4. THIS IS IMPORTANT – If you see someone else being pulled out to sea, do not attempt to rescue them yourself.

If you watch for these four simple warning signs and teach your children to look out for them, you’ll likely avoid danger… but if you find yourself pulled out to sea, don’t panic. You know what to do.

Have your children memorize these steps! It could save their lives.

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