May 23, 2008

New Bilingual Ocean Safety Signs for California’s

Visitors to California’s beaches are about to receive new and critical safety information to help them protect themselves and their families from dangerous ocean conditions.

A total of 1,900 educational signs, in English and Spanish, depicting the dangers of rip currents and steep beaches, will be installed at public access points along the California coast in the next few months. The signs are seen as a significant safety addition, because many who visit the ocean are not educated and aware of the serious dangers that can lurk below the waters of the beautiful Pacific. The signs were funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy and California Sea Grant.

Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, a Sonoma County nonprofit that supports state parks; California Sea Grant, a university-based program of NOAA; and California State Parks, Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division, worked in partnership to develop and produce bilingual steep beach safety signs to alert visitors to our beaches about the potential dangers of swimming in our ocean, especially in Central and Northern California. The rip currents signs were developed by NOAA, the National Weather Service, U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA) and National Sea Grant.

Michele Luna, Executive Director for Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, feels these new bilingual signs will go a long way towards providing additional education for park visitors about the dangers of swimming in the ocean. “Every year we read about tragic drowning incidents along the coast, where if the person had understood the dangers of rip currents, or dangerous waves, they might not have lost their life.” Luna said. “We want these signs to help in the overall aquatic safety efforts of lifeguards and other public safety agencies.”

Luna is concerned about the proposed cuts to the seasonal lifeguard budget of California State Parks because statistics show that drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in California’s state parks. However, the statistics also show that if people follow the water safety recommendations and stay in places where lifeguards are on duty, their chances of drowning drop dramatically.

Statistics support information from the USLA, which estimates the chances of drowning at a beach protected by lifeguards in the United States is less than one in 18 million visitors. Every year lifeguards throughout the United States perform more than 70,000 open-water rescues, according to the statistics collected by the USLA. Despite these efforts, drowning continues to be the third leading cause of accidental death in the United States, claiming more than 4,000 lives each year.

The new signs extend a public education effort begun by California Sea Grant three years ago, which placed more than 500 rip currents warning signs in English and Spanish at beaches in San Diego County and Baja California, Mexico.

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