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6 rip-current deaths in Florida over 2-day span renew calls to trust lifeguards when swimming

South Florida water safety expert, tourists react to rip current drownings
South Florida water safety expert, tourists react to rip current drownings 02:24

FORT LAUDERDALE — Gio Serrano can tell someone's swimming skills based on body language. 

"Body language and behavior in the water tells us a lot about their level of experience in the water and the kind of activity they're trying to do or avoid," Serrano said.

Serrano, a lieutenant with Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue, can see signs of a rip current, whether it's through the way the waves look, or through his polarized sunglasses. He says rip currents can be a trap since they usually happen in areas without waves. 

"You're not here to surf or ride waves in any way then that looks like a great spot, it looks safe." 

He's emphasizing rip current safety after six people died from them in two days this week in Panama City Beach and Stuart Beach. All of them were from out of state when visiting Florida. 

"If there's anything that can be taken from that it's: swim nearby a lifeguard," Serrano said. "Lifeguards do preventions to avoid tragedies like that." 

Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue has flags up every day that show what the conditions are like in the water. 

Fort Lauderdale has flags and signs showing what they mean at every lifeguard tower. But these towers aren't at every entrance, so it's recommended that you swim near one. And lifeguards say the conditions can change at any time." 

Ryan is on vacation from New York, and he didn't even know what those flags meant until CBS Miami told him.  

"In [New] Jersey beaches, I guess in the city it's red flags you don't swim green flags you're fine. That's kind of how we run by," Ryan said.

And if you get caught in a rip current, Serrano says don't fight it and swim straight back to shore. Instead, swim sideways until you're out of the rip current. You should then swim toward shore diagonally. And if you're near a lifeguard tower, they'll know that you need help. 

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