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Carlsbad Beach Safety

Southern California beaches can be a source of summer fun, relaxation and exercise, and beachgoers should always be aware of their natural surroundings to make sure they are safe. 

The seven miles of Carlsbad beaches are patrolled during the summer by State of California or City of Carlsbad lifeguards, who watch out for beachgoers' safety both in and out of the water. 

The recent tragic incident in Encinitas, where a bluff collapse killed three people, reminds us that the beach and ocean are dynamic natural environments, said Carlsbad Fire Battalion Chief Nate Pearson, who oversees the city’s lifeguard program. 

“There are a lot of subtle natural factors that influence the behavior of the water and the beach environment,” Pearson said. 

Pearson said that beach visitors should always regard beach bluffs as unstable environments, and stay away from cliff edges. 

“Avoid cliff edges and bluff edges, and if you are on the beach below them be aware that unstable cliffs have sections that can fall without warning,” said Pearson. “The geology is mostly sandstone or clay loam, which are not considered real stable soils.” 

Pearson noted that Carlsbad Fire Department rescuers regularly extricate people who get caught on a cliff after they attempt to climb up or down. The rock can give way, causing a hazard. 

He also noted that lifeguards occasionally dig out beachgoers after being buried by companions and getting trapped when the hole collapses. 

“Beach sand is very unstable,” Pearson said. “Don’t dig a hole and place a child in it. These rescues are more common than you’d expect.” 

Ocean water is inviting on a hot summer’s day, and Carlsbad beaches entertain thousands of people safely every day. Pearson advises swimmers and surfers to treat the ocean as a natural environment, however, and not like a backyard swimming pool. 

“Rip currents can be tricky and hard to detect, especially when you’re in the water,” Pearson said, so if you’re a new or infrequent visitor to the beach check in with the lifeguards, as they observe the ocean’s conditions every day. 

The ocean is also full of life, which makes it an attractive place to play, but some marine wildlife can pose a risk to bathers and waders, so stay aware. 

“The number one injury reported to lifeguards are stingray injuries, and the best way to avoid that is to shuffle your feet when you’re in the water,” Pearson said. 

Many other species thrive in near-shore waters, including sharks, but not all sharks are hazardous.

“If you see marine life that you’re not familiar with, ask any lifeguard on duty,” Pearson said. “They may help identify what you’re looking at.” 

Carlsbad and San Diego County health officials post warnings if anything troublesome is happening in near-shore ocean waters, so take notice of any advisories that are posted at the beach. 

Pearson said the best practice is to keep watch on your environment, and stay close to a lifeguard station. 

“Swim near a lifeguard, and if you’re not familiar with the ocean ask any lifeguard on duty,” Pearson said. “They’re always happy to help explain that natural environment and interpret what’s going on.” 

The City of Carlsbad Fire Department, which oversees the city lifeguard program, cooperates with other public safety agencies in the county during emergencies to help keep our communities safe. 

More Information
Fire Department Administration, 760-931-2141, firemail@carlsbadca.gov



August 3, 2019