(July 13, 2018) As predicted, water rescues and the successful return of lost children to parents occurred more frequently this past week because of the holiday, but besides that, from a bather’s standpoint, the weekend was normal, if a little busier than the average.
Capt. Butch Arbin of the Ocean City Beach Patrol said the day before Independence Day there were three children reported lost and found by guards and six the day after.
“On July 4 we had 42, which holds true to what we get. The numbers before and after the holiday are typical and when there are more people on the beach, the easier it is to get lost,” he said. “I’ve had Independence Days where we’ve had 100 lost and found calls.”
As for water rescues, Arbin said 95 percent were because of rip currents, and not every rescue is an emergency situation.
“Panic is what kills people, so we try to get to them before they panic. The guards can see if someone is trying to come back in but is being drawn out by the water, so we’ll have the guard direct them out or come to get them,” he said.
Often, Arbin explained, the rescued bather is laughing about the situation, which he sees as a good thing, since laughter offsets panic.
However, it was not July 4 itself that had the high rescue total, it was the weekend.
“We had 26 rescues on July 4, and 45 the following day. On Friday, we had that big storm so there wasn’t a lot going on, but on Saturday it went right back up to 102. Sunday we had 141,” he said.
Rip currents are created by wave action, and can draw people well outside the distance they are accustomed to swimming for shore.
The beach patrol teaches the RIP system for rip current safety, where R stands for ‘relax,’ I is ‘I need help’ and P is ‘parallel’ — the direction a swimmer should go to escape.
Rip currents don’t drag people underwater themselves, but by fighting the fast-moving water, even the best swimmers can quickly tire and sink.