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After Deaths, Ocean City Beach Patrol Warns Against Rip Currents

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Ocean City Beach Patrol is increasing its efforts to educate visitors about the danger of rip currents.
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Ocean City Beach Patrol is increasing its efforts to educate visitors about the danger of rip currents.

In Maryland, the Ocean City beach patrol is ramping up its efforts to educate swimmers about the dangers of rip currents in the ocean. The focused message is in response to two recent drowning deaths at the resort.

It's early morning at the inlet in Ocean City, and dozens of tanned lifeguards in those trademark red shorts are enduring a vigorous training exercise: they are sprinting into the surf and swimming through the shorebreak as if a life depended on it.

Lieutenant Mike Stone says today's focus is rip currents, the powerful channels of water that flow away from the beach and account for more than 80 percent of ocean rescues for lifeguards.

"Even for the strongest of swimmers, if you are stuck in a serious rip, they can't even swim in against the rip current," Stone says.

In recent separate incidents, two teenage boys were sucked out to sea by rip currents and drowned; and while the Ocean City Beach Patrol makes thousands of saves each summer, the drownings mark the first time since 2007 a swimmer has drowned in Ocean City while lifeguards were on duty.

Stone says lifeguards actually try to use the dangerous currents to their advantage in moments when every second counts.

"One of the first things we tell the guards when they start working for us is if you are going to make a rescue, probably the quickest way to get to a person in a rip is jump in the rip," Stone says.

Stone says if you are stuck in a rip current, your best bet is to relax and try to swim parallel to the shore in hopes of getting out of the rip until help arrives.

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