Each year, the festive season is rife with reports of individuals drowning at pools or in the ocean. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has set out some guidelines for swimmers to follow so they can stay safe in the water these December holidays.
“Our Rule Number One for a safe experience at the beach is to choose a beach that has lifeguards on duty and to swim between their flags,” NSRI says. “Putting an arm in the air and waving for help will get a rapid response from the lifeguards on duty.”
Unfortunately, many people have a tendency to swim where there are no lifeguards present, which is when many drownings occur.
“In a typical scenario, Sea Rescue gets an emergency call for a swimmer in difficulty and, when we get there, we find two or more people in danger of drowning,” the rescue organisation says. “Tragically, sometimes we are not able to get there in time and someone drowns. Usually, the person who does not survive is the kind person who went into the water to try and help a person in difficulty.”
This occurs so frequently that the NSRI was prompted to launched its Pink Rescue Buoy project in November 2017. Pink Rescue Buoys are hung on strategically-placed signs, and they remind people to take care when in water. They also alert people not to swim in that specific area as there are no lifeguards on duty.
“If there is an incident and someone needs help these buoys can be thrown to that person, providing emergency flotation. There are clear graphics on the sign which explain how to use the Buoy. And most importantly, the emergency number for the closest Sea Rescue station is printed on the sign,” NSRI says. “If anyone decides, against advice, to enter the water, the Pink Rescue Buoy provides flotation for that person as well as for 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 kind of emergency.
-Put the local Sea Rescue number in your phone too (or you can Google Sea Rescue to find the closest NSRI station emergency number)
-Check the wind, weather and tides.
-Tell someone where you are going and when you are due back, make sure they know your route.
-When climbing on rocks or fishing from rocks, never turn your back on the sea; we strongly advise rock anglers to wear a lifejacket and know when spring high-tide is.
Here are some safety tips to bear in mind this summer:
Swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty.
Lifeguards are on duty at selected beaches between 10am and 6pm on weekends and during the week in the summer school holidays. Listen to their advice and talk to them about safety on the beach you are visiting. If lifeguards are not on duty, do not swim.
Swim between the lifeguard flags.
Teach children (and other adults!) that if they swim between the lifeguards’ flags, lifeguards will be able to watch them and can help if there is a problem.
Don’t Drink and Drown (a special note to parents)
Alcohol and water do not mix. Never drink alcohol and then go swimming.
Don’t swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
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.
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 when visiting a water body that does not have lifeguards on duty. Children should not be able to get through or over barriers such as pool fences to water.
Know how to survive rip currents.
If you swim between the lifeguard flags, you will likely remain safe and well away from rip currents. If there is an unavoidable rip current, do not swim.
Don’t attempt a rescue yourself.
Call a lifeguard or the NSRI by dialling 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.
112 is a good emergency number – for any emergency – to dial from your cell phone. After calling for help try and throw something that floats to the person in difficulty.
Do not let children use floating objects, toys or tire tubes at the beach or on dams.
These 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.
Do not be distracted by your cell phone or social media.
Adults who are supervising children should not be distracted or use their cell phone.
Visit a beach that has lifeguards on duty
Please remember that drowning is completely silent. Someone who is drowning will 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 away from a safe area.