If you’re like several hundred thousand others, you’ll be heading to the beaches on or near Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula this weekend.

For many, the beach is a perfect place to spend time with your friends and family while you enjoy some Texas- or Tejano-style barbecue, surf and sand.

Some 300,000 to 500,000 people will likely be on the island this weekend, and we would all really like to see all of them get home safely.

There are several ways to do that.

The main thing is to swim near a lifeguard.

Your chances of drowning in an area protected by guards trained to the minimum standards set by the United States Lifesaving Association are 1 in 18 million.

The Galveston Island Beach Patrol is certified as an “advanced” agency by this group, which is its highest level.

You are responsible for your own safety, but guards provide a valuable additional layer of protection.

Rip currents are the cause of 80 percent of rescues made in the surf.

In Texas, the strongest rip currents are found near structures like rock groins and piers.

That’s why on the seawall, the guard towers are near the groins and why we put signs and ropes in the area.

Stay away from the rocks and while swimming, check the shoreline to make sure you’re not drifting near them without realizing it.

The ends of the island are very dangerous with strong periodic tidal flows.

You should not swim or wade in the areas of the San Luis Pass and the Houston Ship Channel.

Both ends of the island have a long history of drownings.

Both ends are now heavily patrolled, but it only takes a few seconds for tragedy to strike.

Now that the Texas heat is on us, be sure and take extra precautions for the heat and sun.

Use sunscreen with a high SPF, wear protective clothing and sunglasses and stay hydrated.

If you start feeling nauseous, weak or dizzy, you could be feeling the effects of the sun and should rehydrate and seek shade.

Be sure you keep your kids in sight and get in the water with small kids or kids who are poor swimmers.

Stay close to shore. Strong currents all week mean there are deep troughs near the shore, so be extra careful.

In case you haven’t heard, most of the Caribbean and Gulf has been heavily impacted by sargassum.

The Park Board maintenance department has been working unbelievable hours to keep the beaches looking nice.

Stewart Beach, East Beach and the seawall are the most clear.

During the weekend, the Galveston Park Board is sponsoring beach “Bucket Brigades” where kids can join a tour led by marine biologists to learn about the environmental benefits of seaweed and how it is a habitat for marine life.

Look for our beach volunteers wearing bright orange T-shirts while out on the beach or visit www.galveston

We’ll be out in force, so check with the guard when you arrive for specific information and have fun.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.

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