Safety Advice

Stay Safe

In an emergency where life is at risk
dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Know how to stay safe when on the shore or in the water.

While coastal areas such as beaches can appear to be safe places for a day out, there are many potential hazards you may encounter. The information on these pages will help you to stay safe.

Area Safety Map

Map Key

  • Local Beach
  • Caution: Hazardous Area
  • Danger: Do Not Enter
  • Lifeguard Station
  • Lifebuoy
  • Other Organisation

The above map of Folkestone’s coastal areas shows local beaches, potentially hazardous areas, and dangerous areas which should not be entered. Lifeguard stations, lifebuoys, and points of interest are marked with coloured pins. Coloured areas and pins will give you more detailed information when clicked.

Unmarked areas should not be assumed to be “safe”, and caution should be used at all times when in coastal areas or water.

On Shore

Safety on Shore

While on shore, we advise that you always wear footwear, wear sunscreen if the weather is sunny, and avoid dangerous areas.

Tombstoning

Tombstoning is defined as “the practice of jumping into the sea or similar body of water from a cliff or other high point such that the jumper enters the water vertically straight, like a tombstone”. What may seem like a fun and thrilling activity often results in injuries, and potentially loss of life. There is NO POINT around our local area which is safe for this activity, as harbour walls have submerged concrete break-waters at the base and the tide is never deep enough at the base to jump from cliffs.

Don’t jump into the unknown. Consider the dangers before you take the plunge. Check for hazards in the water. Rocks or other objects may be submerged, and impossible to see.
• Check the depth of the water. Remember tides can rise and fall very quickly.
• As a rule of thumb, a jump of ten metres requires a depth of at least five metres.
• Never jump whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Check for access. It may be impossible to get out of the water.
• Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity.
If you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won’t enjoy the experience anyway.

Unstable Cliffs

Folkestone’s Sunny Sands Beach is home to some beautiful plant life and is connected to some very steep and unstable cliff faces. While visiting the beach there are a few bits of information you should keep in mind:

1) All cliffs are Dangerous. There are no cliffs around the Sunny Sands Beach that are safe to climb.

2) Do not throw items off of the cliff, as this can have a knock-on effect below. You could potentially cause a land slide, endangering anyone below the cliff.

3) Use the designated access points or routes to go up and down the East Cliff. There are a set of steps at the end of the Coronation Parade. Alternatively, North Street leads up to the top of the East Cliff.

Broken Glass

Broken glass is a potential danger that you may come across on any beach. Most beaches prohibit glass containers, as they tend to get broken and mixed in with the sand or stones. Broken glass and bare feet do not mix.

You should pour any liquids into plastic bottles or containers, and avoid bringing glass containers onto the beach.

If you are injured by broken glass then seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should you attempt to remove the glass on your own. Seek medical assistance from a Lifeguard or trained first aider, as the glass could be the only item restricting the loss of blood.

If you are unable to summon help, call 999 on a mobile phone and ask for an ambulance giving as much information as possible including your name and location.

On Water

Safety on Water

When on the water, always wear a Lifejacket or Buoyancy Aid. Stay near the shore. Avoid using small inflatables away from the shore.

Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs when in or on the water, as these will impair your judgement and ability to swim.

Small Boats

If you are a small watercraft or pleasure vessel owner, please read the information on the CG66 Identification Scheme. This information will assist the Coastguard in the event of an emergency, as they will be able to identify what they are looking for.

CG66 gives you information on: –
– Lifejackets
– Distress flares & their disposal
– Safety at the beach, beach safety flags and rip tides
– Tombstoning
– Watercraft & Sailing

There is also information that the Coastguard commonly finds useful that might be useful to you too;
– The Phonetic Alphabet
– The Beaufort Scale
– Map Reading
– V.H.F Channel Information

Motorised Craft

Motorised Craft – also known as Personal Craft (or Jet Skis) – are a recreational vehicle that the rider sits or stands on. While good fun to use, a Personal craft comes with a lot of responsibilities to ensure the safety of both yourself as the operator and other users in the water.

Motorised/Personal crafts are not permitted in Folkestone Harbour, and are not suitable for the Sunny Sands Beach in Folkestone. Personal craft should be kept at least 200 meters off the beach at all times.

Shepway District council also have some specific bylaws regarding the Sunny Sands, bylaws state that:

• Between 1 May and 30 September no-one must drive their pleasure craft (including jet-skis) more than eight nautical miles an hour.
• At all times of the year, they must not be driven in a dangerous manner or without reasonable consideration of others.

If you would like to find information on both safety and suitable locations for Motorised/Personal Crafts then please click here

Drowning

While not a very obvious hazard drowning is still a very serious topic to be aware of. Drowning occurs when a person is unable to breathe because their head is submerged in water. The brain cannot survive for long without oxygen and, after a short time, a person will become unconscious.

If the brain continues to lack oxygen then it will die in just minutes. A lack of oxygen in the lungs may also stop the heart from working.

Drowning can happen for a number of reasons, some of the main causes are “Lack of education in water safety”, “Unrestricted access to hazards”, “Swimming at beaches or areas that lack adequate supervision” & “Being unable to swim”.

How can you reduce the risk of drowning?

1) Ask a beach lifeguard if there are any dangers on the beach that you should be aware of, tide times and weather for the day, this will help you plan for a safe and pleasant visit.

2) Always swim within zones marked as safe, swimming zones are generally highlighted by red and yellow flags and this also means Lifeguards are on duty in case you get into difficulty.

3) Where possible always swim at Lifeguard Protected beaches. Lifeguards are there to ensure your safety and well being so take care to follow any instructions given to you as it may save you getting into a difficult situation or worse.

4) Finally if you are not a confident swimmer, why not ask your local sports centre if they offer swimming lessons? Most centres will offer training for a reasonable price and the knowledge could one day save your life.

Hazards

Potential Hazards

Here are some of the hazards you may encounter when visiting Folkestone’s coastal areas.

The Sun

Direct sunshine is a danger that most people forget about. If exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays for a prolonged period, you can suffer sunburn (damage to the skin), as well as more serious health problems. Everyone is at risk of sunburn, particularly those who have pale or light brown skin, red or fair hair, freckles, or do not usually get much exposure to intense sun.

To prevent sunburn, make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen with a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF), 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and immediately after you have been in the water. Stay in the shade, cover up with loose clothing, and wear a hat. Remember that cool breezes will not remove the risk of sunburn if you are still in direct sunlight.

If you have become sunburnt, your skin will become red, sore, warm and tender. You should get out of direct sunlight as soon as possible. Mild sunburn can be treated by sponging the burnt area with cold water, or having a cold bath or shower. Applying a water-based emollient to the area will help to keep the skin cool and moist. Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may help to lessen any pain, always seek advice when taking painkillers and follow instructions on the packet or from a trained medical professional. Sunburn usually takes around a week to heal, and you should keep out of direct sunlight until the sunburn is gone.

If the burn is severe with swelling or blistering of the skin, you are sunburnt across a large area of your body, or if you feel unwell with symptoms of dizziness, headaches, or nausea, you should seek medical advice immediately by calling NHS 111.

Tides

Tides are another risk that many people forget. Every day, there are approximately two high tides, and two low tides, around six hours apart. The tide times change every day. A coastal area which may be dry and accessible at low tide, could be completely submerged at high tide, cutting you off from safety.

To prevent being cut off by rising tides, check the tide times listed on the right hand side of this page, and make sure you have returned to a safe area well before high tide. Carry a fully charged mobile phone so that you can call for help in case you are cut off. However, the easiest way to prevent being cut off by rising tides is to not venture past any railings or warning signs, and to keep to marked paths.

If you have been cut off by the rising tide and cannot get to safety, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, giving a clear description of your location. If possible, give the location code associated with your location (Wear Bay rocks & Copt Point: SY01, Sunny Sands: SY02, Mermaid Beach: SY03).

Rip Currents

Rip currents can be found on any beach with breaking waves. Waves break powerfully in some locations and weakly in others. When waves break on a shore the water must return to the sea, and it does this where the waves are weakest and the shore is deepest. The returning water can create a strong current that may extend for 100 metres past the surf zone, but the strong current is typically less than 10 metres wide. This flow of water is known as a rip current.

The water can flow very fast and can be too strong, even for good swimmers to swim against. Drowning occurs when people get pulled out of depth, when they are unable to swim against the current and are unable to keep themselves afloat. This may be due to a combination of exhaustion, panic or a lack of swimming skills or knowledge.

Some rip currents stay in fixed positions for a long period of time; these are known as fixed rips.

Rip currents can also occur without warning due to a change in the beach profile (usually caused by strong waves). These fast-forming rips are known as flash rips and can result in many casualties at the same time.

If you are caught in a rip current, do not swim back towards the shore as you will quickly become exhausted. Instead, swim parallel (alongside) the shoreline until you have broken free of the current. Once you are free of the current, you will then be able to return to shore.

Jellyfish

There are many jellyfish around Folkestone’s coast.

A moon jellyfish in the sea.

Photo © Alexander Vasenin

If you have been stung by a jellyfish, you should leave the water and keep still. Any remaining tentacles should be removed with tweezers whilst wearing gloves. Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to lessen any pain or swelling.

Do not apply any substances such as vinegar or urine to the affected area; these do not work and may make the injury worse. If you have difficulty breathing after being stung, you should seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.

Weever Fish

Weevers are small brown fish common around Folkestone’s coast. The Weever fish buries itself in the sand, and has venomous spines which can inflict a very painful sting.

Weever Fish (Echiichthys Vipera)

Photo © Hans Hillewaert

To help avoid being stung by a Weever fish, make sure you wear footwear such as pool shoes, sandals, or wetsuit boots if entering the water. Avoid handling marine creatures at all times.

If you are stung by a Weever fish, you may feel as if you have been scratched at first, and the pain will gradually increase over the next few minutes. The sting is more painful than a wasp or bee sting. You may also experience other symptoms, such as swelling of the area, redness, nausea, headaches, or dizziness. After being stung, you should seek medical attention by calling NHS 111. Submerging the affected area in hot water for 30 to 90 minutes will help to control and reduce the pain, but be careful not to burn yourself. Taking painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen will help to lessen any pain or swelling.

If you have difficulty breathing after being stung, you should seek medical attention immediately by calling 999.

The Sea Scorpion is a small brown fish which can often be found in rock pools after the tide has gone out. This fish also has spines which can puncture skin if handled, but are not venomous.

Dolphins and Seals

Dolphins and seals have recently been spotted close to Folkestone’s coast.

These animals are not usually hazardous, but they are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. We recommend you do not approach these animals if you see them while you are swimming.

Submerged Rocks

Submerged rocks in the ocean are collections of rocks that sit just below the water surface. They are commonly found on beaches that have rugged coastlines characterized by rocky cliffs, coves, and sometimes visible reef formations that stick out of the water off shore.

While rock formations can be scenic and beautiful to explore, they do also present a number of hazards to be aware of. Rocky outcroppings that have any water pooling on them or that appear damp should be avoided where possible. These areas are exposed to breaking surf, especially during large swells, and can be death traps for unsuspecting fishermen, walkers, and tide pool explorers. Rising tides and increasing surf can also trap people on the rocks as the increasing water level submerges the path back to the beach.

Always ensure that you read the signs and warnings and if in doubt ask the advice of Lifeguards on duty.

Cliffs and Falling Rocks

Cliffs can be found above Sunny Sands, stretching East towards the Warren. These cliffs are unstable and subject to falling rocks and landslips. Do not attempt to climb any cliffs or steep slopes in the area, as you will be at risk of falling from height or being struck by falling rocks and debris.

Weather

To ensure that you get the best weather Britain has to offer, it is always advisable to check the weather each morning, doing so will give you a good forecast for the day and will allow you to plan your day accordingly.

There are a lot of sites that will give you up to date weather for your area including: Met Office, BBC Weather and our own Folkestone Rescue website.

Flags

Understanding Beach Flags

You may see flags flying from the slipway and the lookout at Sunny Sands beach. These flags are an important safety indicator, telling you whether lifeguards are on duty, and whether it is safe to swim. You can see the current flag status at Sunny Sands on the right hand side of this website.

Red & Yellow Flag = Lifeguards on Duty

If red and yellow flags are flying, Lifeguards are on duty and it is safe to swim between these flags.

Red Flag = Danger

If a red flag is flying, it is dangerous to swim, and you should not enter the water.

Yellow Flag = Caution

If a yellow flag is flying, caution should be used. Seek advice from lifeguards on whether it is safe to swim.

No Flag

No Flag = Lifeguards not on Duty

If there are no flags, lifeguards are not on duty. Caution should be used, and you will be entering the water at your own risk. In the event of an emergency, you should contact the Coastguard by phoning 999.