Locals have been warned to be vigilant while on the roads this Easter weekend, but many have forgotten about the enduring dangers of swimming. The National Sea Rescue Institue (NSRI) is warning the public to be aware of Friday’s full moon spring tide, which will effect ocean waves throughout the weekend.
“Caution is advised and anglers fishing from rocks along the coast are urged to be cautious,” the organisation said. “NSRI wishes everyone a safe weekend and we urge the public to adopt a safety-conscious mindset around coastal and inland waters.”
Our number one rule for a safe experience at the beach is to choose one that has lifeguards on duty and to swim between the lifeguard flags.
Putting an arm in the air and waving for help will get a rapid response from the lifeguards on duty. Unfortunately, for various reasons people regularly swim where there are no lifeguards on duty, either because the beach’s lifeguard has gone off duty for the day and left, or the beach does not have lifeguards. This is when things can go wrong.
In a typical scenario, Sea Rescue gets an emergency call for a swimmer in difficulty and, when responders arrive, they find two or more people in danger of drowning. Tragically, sometimes they are unable to get there in time to save them. Often the person who does not survive is sadly the kind person who went into the water to try and help a person who was in difficulty.
Because this happens so frequently, Sea Rescue launched its Pink Rescue Buoy project in November 2017. These bright-pink rescue buoys are hung on strategically-placed signs in the hope that they will remind people to take care when entering the water – and not to swim if lifeguards are not on duty on that stretch of the beach.
If there is an incident and someone needs help, these buoys can be thrown to the person in trouble in the water, providing them with emergency flotation. There are clear graphics on the sign that explain how to use the Pink Rescue Buoy, and the emergency number for the closest Sea Rescue station is printed on the sign.
If you decide, against advice, to enter the water to try to rescue someone in trouble, first call Sea Rescue, then take the Rescue Buoy with you into the water – it could save you as well as the casualty.
Have a plan in place in the event of an emergency to prevent panic:
Make sure you have emergency numbers saved in your cell phone. Dial 112 from any cell phone in any emergency.
Put the local Sea Rescue number in your phone (or you can Google Sea Rescue to find the closest NSRI station emergency number).
Check the wind, weather and tides on the day you are visiting the beach.
Tell someone where you are going and when you are due back, make sure they know your route and your intentions.
When climbing on rocks or fishing from rocks, never ever turn your back on the sea. Rock anglers are strongly advised to wear a lifejacket and know when spring high tide is.
If you are paddling or if you are on a boat, before you launch, download and always use NSRI’s free SafeTrx app – go to www.nsri.org.za/safetrx.
General safety tips for the beach:
1. Swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty.
Lifeguards are on duty at selected beaches over the long weekend. Listen to their advice and talk to them about safety on the beach that you are visiting – they are the experts on that beach. If lifeguards are not on duty, do not swim.
2. Swim between the lifeguard flags.
Teach children that if they swim between the lifeguard flags the lifeguards will be watching them and can help if there is a problem. Lifeguards watch swimmers very carefully between the flags – just wave an arm if you need help.
3. Don’t Drink and Drown.
Alcohol and water do not mix. Never drink alcohol and then go swimming.
4. Don’t swim alone.
If you are with a buddy while swimming there is someone who can call for help if you need it and you can’t wave to the lifeguards or call for help yourself.
5. Adult supervision and barriers to water are vital.
Adults who are supervising children in or near water must be able to swim. This is vital if it is at a water body that does not have lifeguards on duty. It is extremely dangerous to get into the water to rescue someone so rather throw something that floats to the person in difficulty and call for help (112 from a cell phone and check for the nearest Sea Rescue station telephone number before you visit a beach – put that number into your cell phone). Children should not be able to get through or over barriers such as pool fences to water.
6. Know how to survive rip currents.
If you swim between the lifeguard flags they will make sure that you are safe and well away from rip currents. If for some reason this is not possible, do not swim.
7. Don’t attempt a rescue yourself.
Call a lifeguard or the NSRI by dialing 112 from your cell phone for help. If you see someone in difficulty, call a lifeguard at once or dial the nearest Sea Rescue station from your cell phone.
You should put this number into your cell phone before you go to the beach – 112 is a good emergency number for any emergency – to dial. After calling for help, try and throw something that floats to the person in difficulty. A ball or a foam board are some good examples.
8. Do not let children use floating objects, toys or tire tubes at the beach or on dams.
You can very quickly get blown away from the shore and as much fun as tubes and styrofoam are it is easy to fall off them. If a child can’t swim and falls off in deep water they will drown.
9. Do not be distracted by your cell phone or social media.
While you are looking after children in or near water, you need to focus on them and nothing else. Adults who are supervising children should not be distracted or use their cell phones. It is not possible to concentrate on children in the water and be on your phone at the same time.
10. Visit a beach that has lifeguards on duty – there is a reason we have repeated this!
Please remember that drowning is completely silent.
Someone who is drowning will usually not shout for help. They will be vertical in the water (like they are trying to stand or climb stairs) and they will then silently slip under the water. Listening for children (or adults) in difficulty in the water is not good enough, you must be watching them very carefully.
Make sure that they are not getting in too deep or being moved by currents and swept away from the safe swimming area.
Also be aware of storing water without safety covers and make sure that they are behind barriers for small children, especially those under the age of four.
A small child does not have the strength to lift themselves out of a bucket of water and if they fall into a bucket they will drown. At home make sure that your pool has a child safe pool cover or net and an approved fence that has a double locking gate and can’t be climbed by small children.
“Have a safety-conscious mindset around water. Even your swimming pool at home should have a cloak of safety around it to prevent accidents,” the NSRI says.