This page contains information and safety tips on how to stay safe at the beach and waterways across Victoria.
Before a day at the beach, remember to:
- Always swim between the red and yellow flags
- Swim with a friend
- Always supervise children around water, remembering that 20 seconds is all it takes for a children to drown. For every toddler who drowns, another 10 are hospitalised, some left with permanent disabilities. Keep children under 5 years within arms’ reach, and those ten years of age and younger always in your line of sight.
- If you are not feeling comfortable in the water and you require a lifeguard’s assistance to get back to shore, stay calm, raise your arm in the air and wave it from side to side. This will attract the attention of a lifeguard who will be able to come to your assistance. You should conserve your energy by floating on your back and staying calm. This will ensure you have the energy to remain afloat until further aid arrives.
You can find a patrolled beach on Beachsafe website or by using the Beachsafe app.
Also check whether the beach is patrolled with lifesavers or lifeguards, so you can swim between the red and yellow flags where they can see you if you get into trouble.
Lifeguards are highly trained and very knowledgeable about beach safety and conditions. When you arrive at the beach look for and identify the lifeguards. Feel free to ask them about the day’s conditions, as well any additional beach safety advice they might have for that specific beach – because every beach is different.
The most important flags on the beach are the red and yellow flags. These show the supervised area of the beach and that a lifesaving service is operating. If there are no red and yellow flags, you should not go swimming.
Safety signs are also put in place to warn you about the permanent and occasional hazards that are present in the environment. Some of these signs are permanent for long term hazards. However others are put into place each day by the lifeguards to show you hazards present on that day in a specific location such as rip currents which can move from place to place on different days.
- Know how to identify and avoid a rip current
- If you’re caught in a rip current, stay calm, conserve your energy and consider these options:
- Raise an arm and call out to seek help.
- Float with the current. It may return you to a shallow sandbank.
- Swim parallel to the beach. You may escape the rip current.
- Reassess the situation – if what you’re doing isn’t working, try another option until you return to shore
- Whenever possible, swim between the red and yellow flags at a beach patrolled by lifesavers or lifeguards
- Learn how to spot and avoid rip currents – find out more at beachsafe.org.au or download the beachsafe app
- Draw a Line in the Sand to: stop, look and plan when you arrive at a beach to assess conditions
- Check the beach hazard safety rating of the beach you’re planning to go to at beachsafe.org.au and ask a local for advice
Alcohol and drug related coastal drowning make up 1/5th of all coastal drowning deaths since 2004. More than half of these deaths occurred while swimming/wading or boating, predominantly at unpatrolled locations or outside patrol hours.
Check the weather forecast at bom.gov.au and watch for changing conditions, cool changes and wind direction changes that could impact your beach activities.
Check the beach hazard rating of the location you’re heading at: beachsafe.org.au. A beach with a rating of 8/10 won’t be suitable for swimming for most people. Also check whether the beach is patrolled with lifesavers or lifeguards, so you can swim between the red and yellow flags where they can see you if you get into trouble.
Be prepared to change your plans if you get to the beach and find the conditions are not suitable for the activity you’ve planned. It’s not worth the risk.
For a safe fishing adventure including
use the following checklist:
- Check water and weather conditions before you go.
- Always tell friends or family of your plans – where you are going and when you will be returning.
- Never fish alone – always fish with a friend.
- Wear a personal flotation device and carry safety gear and a first-aid kit.
- Wear appropriate clothing with non-slip soles.
- Watch the water at all times as conditions can change dramatically in a short time.
Rivers and creeks
Before a day at the river, creek or dam:
- Check the weather forecast at and watch for changing conditions.
- Read safety signs to understand dangers.
- Wear a lifejacket when boating.
- Drink alcohol responsibly around water and other water activities.
- Always swim with a friend.
- Learn how to save a life by doing a CPR or first-aid course.
- Be aware of unstable edges on river banks, dam banks and lakes.
- Inland waterways have many hidden dangers such as submerged objects, debris and strong currents
- Be aware of the effects of cold water on your body.
- Never overestimate your abilities… and never underestimate the risks
- Be prepared for unexpected falls into water.
- Refresh water safety skills including personal survival techniques, swimming skills and water safety knowledge.
Reviewed 02 June 2021