Enjoy water, play safe: The NSRI’s safety tips for the summer holidays

Reading time: 8 min

Summer school holidays are around the corner and Sea Rescue South Africa (NSRI) wants to get the message of beach safety out to those who are headed to the coast for a well-deserved break. Their number one rule for a safe experience at the beach is to choose a beach that has lifeguards on duty and to swim between their flags.

beach-flags

That way you don’t need to worry about rip currents or suddenly getting out of your depth. Putting an arm in the air and waving for help will get a rapid response from the lifeguards on duty. Unfortunately, people regularly swim where there are no lifeguards on duty – either when their duty has finished or at a beach that 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 often find two or more people in danger of drowning. Tragically, they are not always 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.

Pink Rescue Buoys

Sea Rescue launched their Pink Rescue Buoy project in November 2017. These bright Pink Rescue Buoys are hung on strategically placed signs to remind people to take care when entering the water – and not to swim if lifeguards are not on duty.

“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.”

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. More importantly, the emergency number for the closest Sea Rescue station is printed on the sign.

If anyone decides to enter the water regardless of any warnings, the Pink Rescue Buoy provides flotation for that person as well as for the casualty.

lifeguard-rescue-buoy-at-the-sea
Image: Simon McDonnell/Macmedia

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 an 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 ever turn your back on the sea. It is also strongly advised that rock anglers wear a lifejacket and know when spring high tide is.
  • If you are paddling or on a boat, download and always use NSRI’s free SafeTrx app.

10 safety tips to bear in mind this summer

  1. 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 summer school holidays. 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.
  1. Swim between the lifeguard’s flags. Teach children that if they swim between the lifeguards’ 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.
  1. Don’t drink and drown. Alcohol and water do not mix. Never drink alcohol and then go swimming.
  1. 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, or if you can’t wave to the lifeguards or call for help yourself.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. Educate yourself about rip currents, there is plenty of educational material on the NSRI website, including videos of what rip currents look like.

drowning-is-not-always-obvious

  1. 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. You should put this number into your phone before you go to the beach – download our free resource with the emergency numbers for NSRI here or you can Google for the closest NSRI station emergency number. After calling for help try and throw something that floats to the person in difficulty. A ball, a foam board and so on.
  1. Do not let children use floating objects, toys or tyre 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.
  1. 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. It is not possible to concentrate on children in the water and be on your phone at the same time.
  1. Visit a beach that has lifeguards on duty – there is a reason that we have repeated this! 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.

“Listening for children (or adults) in difficulty in the water is not good enough; you must be watching them very carefully.”

Also, be aware of storing water without safe covers and make sure that they are behind barriers to small children – especially children under four years of age. 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.

To read more about the NSRI Drowning Prevention campaigns and for downloadable material, please click here.

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