National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

A trip to the beach should be fun. Unfortunately, many people are injured or killed along our nation's beaches by hazards such as dangerous currents, tsunamis, heat and lightning. The National Weather Service can help ensure you leave the beach with good memories. NWS and our sister agency, the National Ocean Service, provide you the information you need to stay safe on beaches and in coastal areas and surf zones. A surf zone is defined as the area of water between the beach/shore and the first line of breaking waves. If you live on the Great Lakes you face a unique set of Beach challenges. Find out how to stay safe on the Great Lakes.

+Wave Safe video series

+Fatalities: Lightning At the Beach

Lightning is a real beach hazard. The second greatest cause for lightning fatalities are beach activities!

  • Fishing is the leading cause of lightning fatalities: fishermen are on piers, large rocks and sandy beaches as well in boats
  • General beach activities such as sunbathing, playing ball, etc. is the second highest cause of lightning fatalities
  • Camping is the third highest cause of lightning activities

There are a number of reasons why beach activities contribute to so many fatalities:

  • The sound of thunder is hidden by the sounds of the surf and people having fun.
  • Safety, typically a car or other vehicle, may be some distance away.
  • Along the U.S. East Coast, people are generally facing to the ocean in the east but many storms come from the west.

Enjoy your time at the beach but keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Keep a watchful eye to the sky IN ALL DIRECTIONS and head to a safe place immediately at any sign of an approaching or developing storm
  • Monitor the forecast and radar on a phone or other electronic media and get to a safe place, such a vehicle or large, fully enclosed building (not a picnic shelter or other opensided structure).
  • When camping on the beach, have a hard-topped metal vehicle nearby and head into it at the first sign of a thunderstorm.

Find out more about Lightning Safety

+UV Safety: Stay Safe in the Sun

Bring an umbrella to the beach and stay in the shade. Wear a hat and sunscreen when you are out in the sun. Remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and whenever you get out of the water. 

  • beach umbrellaUse Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand: Water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Check the UV IndexThe UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities and prevent over exposure to the sun. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA.
  • Know the day’s UV Index: Visit EPA’s UV Index Web Page
  • Get the free UVI smartphone app from EPA
  • Subscribe to EnviroFlash for UV Index forecast and alert notification emails. EnviroFlash provides free UV Index information in the location of your choice. This service provides notifications about UV Alert days as well as next day UV Index forecasts. 
  • Find out more about UV safety

+Beach Safety and Education

+Harmful Algal Blooms

+Great Lakes Beach Safety