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Beware of Flying Beach Umbrellas

An unsecured umbrella can turn into a deadly projectile — but there are ways to make your trip to the beach a safe one.

Rye, New Hampshire, July 16, 2010: Two women struggle to keep their umbrella from flying away during a strong gust of wind at the beach. James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

When most of us think about the potential dangers of a day at the beach, the worst-case-scenario things that come to mind are probably along the lines of drowning, a bad sunburn, or maybe even a shark attack. But there is one rather unlikely-sounding danger that Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner want folks to be aware of: beach umbrellas. Together they’ve written a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission requesting a public safety campaign on the dangers of windborne beach umbrellas. They write: “we believe it is imperative that the CPSC ensure that a day at the beach isn’t turned into a day in the emergency room”. Between 2010 and 2018, about 2,800 people were treated in emergency rooms because they had been injured by a beach umbrella, and in 2016 a woman who was visiting Virginia Beach from Chester, Virginia, died when she was impaled by an umbrella that became airborne in a gust of wind.

The good news it that there are some easy safety precautions you can take the next time you head to the beach with an umbrella. The most reliable way to keep your umbrella grounded is to weigh down the base; there are many products you can purchase online that serve as heavy anchors when filled with sand. Another option is to use a screw-type sand anchor to secure your umbrella in the sand. It’s a good idea to buy an umbrella with a vented top, so that it’s less likely to catch enough air to fly away, and you should always position the umbrella so that its dome faces into the wind. Once you are settled on the beach, never leave your umbrella unattended. If you get up for a dip in the water, the safest thing you can do is to simply collapse your umbrella and lay it flat on the ground until you sit down again.

Virginia Beach, Va – Three lifeguard stands. Rocky LaLiberte / Flickr / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

We at Burnett & Williams hope that you are having a sun-filled, fun-filled, injury-free summer! But if you ever find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one has been hurt and you need advice, don’t hesitate to call us at 800-969-1650, or email us at connect@burnettwilliams.com