Going to the beach these holidays? Stay safe with these tips from the National Sea Rescue Institute.
Prevent panic by having a plan
Sea Rescue encourages you to have a safety plan in place before you need it. Make sure that key people in your group know who to call in an emergency and that all family members know what to do if something goes wrong.
Responsible adult supervision of children is key to their safety. If a child is separated from your group during an outing have a predetermined meeting place. Programme cellphones with the relevant emergency numbers before you need them. Often when you are under pressure, you can’t remember the number that you need to call.
Ensuring your survival when the odds, or the weather, unexpectedly turn against you, begins well before you leave home. It is wise to make sure that you know how to use safety equipment (if you are on a boat) as it is no good trying to familiarise yourself with it for the first time in a real emergency.
What follows are some basic safety ideas that may save your life if you think them through before you are in trouble. Please visit the Sea Rescue website for more information at www.searescue.org.za
Children should never be left alone near any water. Children should have responsible adult supervision around any water (including a bath, bucket and swimming pool) at all times. Statistics released by the Medical Research Council show that children aged between 9 and 14 and under 5 are most at risk of drowning. Drowning is silent. Always have someone responsible watching over your children while they are swimming.
Choose the right beach. When planning a trip to the beach, choose one that has lifeguards on duty and swim between their flags. If you do this, you don’t need to worry about dangerous currents: the lifeguards will do that, and if you get into difficulty they will come and help you.
Contrary to popular belief, children do not thrash around and shout for help when they are drowning. They may be able to wave and shout for help when in distress, but drowning is silent. A person who is trying to tread water, with their head tilted back… is a person in desperate need of help. They are quite possibly drowning.
Never turn your back on the sea. This is most important for anglers on rocks, and something that should be reinforced in children on holiday in an unfamiliar place. Wear a lifejacket when fishing from rocks and when in or on any type of craft.
Learn about rip currents. These are the greatest cause of drowning accidents along our coast. A rip current looks like rivers of water flowing fast out to sea against the incoming waves. If you are caught in a rip-current you’ll be swept out to sea faster than you’re able to swim towards the shore.
Don’t panic or try to swim against the current. As tough as this sounds, let the current take you out to sea. Float on your back and raise one arm in the air. Wave to alert people on the shore that you’re in trouble.
A rip current’s force dissipates the further out to sea it gets. At the first chance you get, swim parallel to the beach until you’re free of the rip, then use the incoming waves to aid your progress to get back to shore.
If you are stung by a bluebottle remove any tentacles that are stuck to the skin with tweezers or a gloved hand. Wash the skin with sea water and as soon as possible immerse the site of the sting in tolerably hot water. Vinegar should be applied to the skin that has been stung. See a doctor for further treatment if it is needed.
If you live near a river or a dam be careful of flooding. Never try and cross a river that is in flood. Go to a safe place, or simply wait for the water level to drop.
Diving into rivers and dams is dangerous and may leave you paralysed if you hit your head against a rock or the bottom. Always walk into the water if you are a good swimmer to see how deep it is. If you are not a good swimmer and want to cool off in the shallows, use a stick to check that there is not a sudden drop-off or hole that you may fall into.
If you see someone who needs help, use a stick or rope to pull them out of the water or throw them something that will help them to float like a two litre empty milk container, car tube, surfboard or anything else that will float. Don’t jump in after them.
Boaters and paddlers
Watch the weather forecast carefully and be prepared for the worst if weather conditions change adversely, or if you unexpectedly find yourself in an emergency situation. Always let a responsible person know the route that you plan on taking and your estimated return time. Make sure you stick to these times and routes. Ensure that this person has the correct number and will call Sea Rescue if you do not return as scheduled.
Check that your craft and equipment are in good working order. Make sure your craft and trailer has your name and a land-based contact number for somebody who knows where you have gone stencilled on it.
And very important: Wear a lifejacket at all times.
Keep your cellphone, with fully charged batteries, in a watertight plastic sleeve attached to your lifejacket, not in a locker. Carry red distress flares, a signalling mirror or CD disc, a referee’s whistle, a waterproof torch and wear brightly coloured gear, a hat and sunscreen and keep well hydrated. Make sure that you have enough drinking water on your craft. Download Sea Rescue’s free app Safetrx. It is an easy and fast way to call for help anywhere on the coast – as long as you are in a cellphone reception area.
Always wear a life-jacket while fishing close to the shore’s edge, especially on cliffs or rocks. The inflatable type of life jacket will not get in your way and may well save your life if you are washed in.
Be aware of the high and low tides and never turn your back to the sea. Take extra precautions during the bi-monthly spring tides. Rocks that you know as always being out of the water may not be safe at these extra high tides.
IN AN EMERGENCY
Everyone living along the coast or visiting the coast should find out what their nearest Sea Rescue emergency telephone number is.
To find out what your nearest sea rescue emergency number is go to www.searescue.org.za
A very important emergency phone number to store in your phone is 112.
112 is the national emergency number and should only be used to report an emergency. It can be called from a cell. If you need help and can’t remember the number simply Google “Sea Rescue” or NSRI and you will find the closest rescue base emergency number.