TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are reminding residents and visitors to use caution at the beach this week, due to an elevated risk of rip currents expected along Florida's panhandle and east central beaches through the end of the week.

A high risk of rip currents is expected from Escambia through Okaloosa County, as well as along the Atlantic coast from Volusia through Martin County. Remaining portions of Florida's east coast will see a moderate risk of rip currents.

FDEM reminds all beachgoers to use caution and check beach warning flags before swimming.

It is important to remember that when red flags are flying, beachgoers should remain alert while visiting Florida’s beaches. A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean.

FDEM reminds beachgoers when at the beach to check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions, obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards, and know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.

Beachgoers can check their local rip current outlook at www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.

FDEM reminds beachgoers to check the latest National Weather Service forecast for beach conditions before heading to the beach.

It is important to obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. They are trained to identify hazards.

Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags:

  • Double red: Beach is closed.
  • Single Red: High hazard.
  • Yellow: Medium hazard.
  • Green: Calm conditions.
  • Purple: Flown with either red or yellow means dangerous marine life.

Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.

Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.

Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.

If caught in a rip current do not panic:

  • Remain calm and conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Never swim against the rip. Stay afloat and signal for help.
  • Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline.
  • When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
  • Draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.