With the official bathing season beginning today, Fingal County Council wants to recognise the indispensable role that lifeguards play in ensuring the safety and well-being of beachgoers along the 88 km of Fingal coastline that stretches from Howth in the south to Balbriggan in the north of the county.
Thousands of people flock to beaches to relax and enjoy the water, with lifeguards there to keep a watchful eye on bathers. Whilst they may not always be responding to an active incident in the water, it’s important to remember that lifeguards are always working by spotting potential hazards before they can become dangerous and, in some instances, life-threatening.
This year lifeguards will be on duty at various times at Fingal’s 10 identified bathing areas, with priority staffing given to manning the three Blue Flag beaches, namely Balcarrick Beach in Donabate, Velvet Strand in Portmarnock and also at South Beach in Rush. Malahide Beach, which is not an identified bathing area, will also be manned, and will fly a constant red flag as swimming is not permitted due to dangerous currents, marine traffic and a deep channel.
Despite running a rigorous recruitment campaign over the last few months, the Council will be unable to put lifeguards at all its designated bathing areas. This shortage of available lifeguards will leave some beaches exposed during the summer, with patrols not possible on all popular beaches.
Beachgoers are reminded that if there’s a red over yellow flag flying from the lifeguard station, a lifeguard is present and it is safe to swim. A red flag means there is a lifeguard on duty, but it is not safe to swim. No flag means there is no lifeguard on duty. A lifeguard is only on duty in the summer months from 11am to 7pm as follows:
Saturday and Sunday during June
Every day during July & August (N.B. locations will be dependent on staffing availability)
The first two weekends in September (Blue Flag Beaches only)
Lifeguards play a vital and often varied role in ensuring the safety of bathers, particularly as and they’re often the first responders in case of an emergency. Being a responsible visitor to the beach can assist them to do their duties, which is why the Council is keen to encourage beach enthusiasts to exercise caution, remain vigilant, and respect the authority of lifeguards. By working together, we can create a safe and enjoyable beach experience for everyone.
MaryT Daly, Director of Operations at Fingal County Council said: “Lifeguards are not merely guardians of the shoreline; they are trained professionals equipped with the skills and expertise to respond swiftly and effectively in emergency situations. With safety as our utmost priority, we aim to raise awareness and promote responsible beachgoing practices to ensure a memorable and incident-free summer season.
"Our lifeguards work tirelessly to ensure the safety of all beachgoers. From preventing accidents to performing rescues and administering first aid, these dedicated individuals are the frontline heroes who save lives and protect our community. Their expertise and vigilance are invaluable in maintaining a secure environment. We urge all visitors to familiarize themselves with beach safety guidelines, respect the instructions of lifeguards, and take personal responsibility for their actions to avoid unnecessary risks."
To maximize beach safety and minimize potential hazards, Fingal wants beachgoers to keep the following tips in mind:
Swim in designated areas: Always swim in areas supervised by lifeguards and obey any posted signs or flags indicating current water conditions such as dangerous currents or undertows.
Keep a close eye on children: If you're visiting the beach with children, closely supervise them at all times and make sure they understand and adhere to safety rules. Drowning incidents can occur in a matter of seconds, and constant supervision is essential to prevent accidents. It’s good to ensure they are within arm's reach.
Follow lifeguard instructions: Pay close attention to lifeguard instructions, as they are well-informed about local conditions and can provide guidance to ensure your safety.
Please do not bring inflatable toys to the beach: While inflatables can be great fun, they are not designed for open water and it can take very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea - much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the shore. Nobody wants to be the cause of a full search and rescue mission that involves the Irish Coastguard.
Avoid alcohol and drugs: Drinking alcohol is forbidden under Fingal County Council beach bye-laws. What’s more, the behaviour of those who ignore the bye-laws and drink to excess makes it a very unpleasant and sometimes threatening experience for other people, especially families, to visit the beach. Remember that alcohol and drugs also impair judgement and coordination, increasing the risk of accidents in the water. Stay sober and alert while enjoying the beach.
Be aware of weather conditions: Check the weather forecast before heading to the beach and be prepared for sudden changes. Avoid swimming during storms or when strong currents are present.
Learn basic water safety: If you're not a confident swimmer, consider taking swimming lessons or familiarise yourself with basic water safety techniques.
Stay hydrated and use sun protection: Protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid heat-related illnesses.
Leave No Trace: Respect the environment by cleaning up after yourself and disposing of trash in designated bins. Take your rubbish home with you, if our bins are full. Also, please do not bring BBQs to our beaches, as they can lead to serious burns if left behind.
Be alert: Where an area is not being lifeguarded and you get into trouble or see someone else in difficulty, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.
By adhering to these guidelines and being responsible beachgoers, we can all contribute to a safer and more enjoyable summer experience. Remember, the actions of each individual can make a significant difference in ensuring the well-being of ourselves and others. Fingal wants to create a safe and enjoyable beach environment for all, so let us remember that the responsibility for our safety lies not only with the lifeguards but also with ourselves.
As part of its efforts to ensure the enjoyment of our beaches for all members of the public, An Garda Síochána will be working together with Fingal County Council under their Parking Control Bye-Laws and Parks and Open Spaces Bye-Laws to:
Enhance community safety and confidence
Monitor and enforce Road Traffic and Parking infringements
Combat alcohol consumption in public spaces
Mitigate against anti-social behaviour
During this time, this will see the Council and An Garda Síochána Roads Policing Unit on duty enforcing no parking areas and monitoring traffic. A total of 745 fines were issued over summer 2022 in relation to beach and parking by-laws in the Howth/Malahide area, making a trip to the beach a costlier exercise than necessary.
With good weather due to continue across the June long weekend, the number of people heading to the beach is expected to increase. Anyone who is going to visit should also check water quality information available on beaches.ie. The pre-season testing results have shown all monitored bathing waters are currently excellent.
To find a beach in Fingal, go to: https://www.fingal.ie/visitor/trips/find-beach
For more on our lifeguards: