Sea safety

Please follow our advice on how to stay safe at the beach.

Our lifeguards patrol the city's beaches from the end of May until the first weekend in September. 

What to do in an emergency

Phone 999 and ask for the coastguard if you see anyone in danger or attempting to enter the water in poor sea conditions.

The Seafront Office has direct links to the coastguard and can respond immediately.

You can also notify your nearest lifeguard if they are on patrol.

Stay safe on the beach

Brighton & Hove’s coastline can be extremely dangerous, with winds coming in from multiple directions causing dangerous wave conditions on the shoreline.

It can also be difficult to enter and leave the water, due to steep shingle beaches, especially during the four hours over the high tide period. The combination of weather conditions and steep shingle banks means you could be in danger of being swept out to sea. 

Stay on the shore and out of the water at this time of year.

Read our winter water facts and watch our videos below on staying safe with your family when visiting Brighton & Hove beaches.

Winter water facts

Stay on the shore and out of the water at this time of year.

  • Sea temperatures so far this winter are around 11 degrees centigrade but can drop to around 5 degrees or even colder
  • Even on an apparently clear sunny day, the sea temperature can drop body temperature quickly and fatally.
  • It only takes a few minutes for the body’s core temperature to drop by two degrees and for the onset of hypothermia to begin.
  • It is never safe to go into the sea after drinking alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol speeds up the onset of hypothermia in cold water. Drinking also reduces your capabilities. You may also think you are a better swimmer than your true ability and take unnecessary risks.
  • Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition or taking medication runs additional risks by subjecting their body to a sudden drop of temperature by entering the sea.
  • Winter environmental conditions can be extremely challenging, even for the most experienced swimmers. The tide and the weather dictate the conditions and these should not be underestimated.
  • There is no beach lifeguard service provision in place during the winter months.
  • Large crashing waves close to the shore can place emergency services’ lives at risk and make it impossible to reach those in need.

These winter water facts are endorsed by the RNLI. 

Don't drink and drown

You can view a transcript of the don't drink and drown - sea safety video (PDF 173KB).

Wave dodging

You can view a transcript of the wave dodging - sea safety video (PDF 38KB).

A day to remember for families

You can view a transcript of the a day to remember - sea safety video (PDF 111KB).

Know the risks

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution highlights some common risks by the coastline such as rip currents and cold water shock on their website

Pier and groyne jumping

This is extremely dangerous. You should never jump off any structure directly into the sea as you can never be sure how deep the water is below. Even if you think you are an expert, your behaviour will encourage others to do so who may know less about conditions, tides and sea depths.

Red flags, yellow flags and bad weather

Our lifeguards patrol the city's beaches from the end of May until the first weekend in September.

Two flags can be flown independently to signal the presence of a lifeguard.

  • Red and yellow flags are raised on patrolled beaches and represent safe swimming conditions
  • Red flags mean that it is unsafe to swim in the sea.

When the red flag is flying or when its high tide and big waves crashing down, please for the safety of yourself, your children and your dogs, stay away from the water's edge. We want you to remember your trip to the seaside for all the right reasons.

Swim in a defined lifeguard area

Please swim within the defined lifeguard areas.

These are:

  • between the red and yellow flags, or
  • between the yellow swimming buoys.

Being 'near' the lifeguard may still mean you are out of their patrolled zone.

We strongly recommend you do not swim in the sea out side of the lifeguard service or in the winter months. The sea temperature is extremely low and the onset of hypothermia can take a matter of minutes.

Weaver fish

This is a small fish (about 15 centimetres long) with venomous spines along its dorsal fin. The weaver fish his commonly found around the coast of the UK and Ireland in warm weather. It may hide under the sand at low tide and its sting can be extremely painful.

Treatment

The affected limb or wound should be immersed in water as hot as can be tolerated comfortably for 30 - 60 minutes. The wound should then be checked for spines and then treated as any other puncture wound. The venom is de-activated by heat and the intense pain should subside after this time.

Simple painkillers such as paracetamol or an anti inflammatory will also help to relieve the pain; antihistamines do not help as the venom is a protein. Please seek assistance of a beach lifeguard for further advice and treatment