With the holiday season and the rising temperatures upon Durbanites, residents often enjoy cooling off by going for a swim. This, unfortunately, often results in incidents of drowning.
Keeping this in mind, the South African Police Services is urging the public to practice water safety during the festive season.
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It is usually the SAPS that are called in to rescue, search for or recover the bodies of drowning victims.
A report issued by the police read, “Water safety is one of the functions of the SAPS and the Water Wing will be on standby and will be patrolling our waters to ensure that people breaking away for the festive season, adhere to the rules and regulations that govern water activities.”
The organisers of water activities must ensure that appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cellphone, lifejackets and a first-aid kit are available, with the necessary emergency instructions.
“Knowing CPR is a skill that can mean the difference between survival and the death of a victim who almost drowned. Special care must be taken at isolated dams, rivers and pools on farms and in rural areas, especially after heavy rains in the area. Even a small inflatable pool or bucket full of water, is a potential danger for toddlers if they are not supervised,” the statement further indicated. In addition to this, the SAPS have issued the following water safety tips:
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Before entering the sea, swimmers must take time to watch the waves and must avoid places where there is a strong backwash, obvious rip currents or a danger of being washed onto the rocks.
Check the weather and the tides before you leave home – if the sea is too rough, you could be swept away.
Only enter where the waves are straight and gentle.
If you experience a strong current, get out of the sea, or at least do not go in deep.
It is better to swim when the tide is rising as the sea will tend to wash you ashore and the backwash and rip currents are not so strong.
Check with the lifeguard/s on duty what the surf conditions are before entering the sea.
Only swim in designated areas that are supervised by lifeguards.
If the lifeguards give you directions or instructions from the beach, obey
Look out for warning signs and flags – a red flag means it is dangerous to swim.
A red-and-yellow flag means lifeguards are on duty and you should only swim in the area between the flags.
Be considerate of other swimmers, especially when surfing.
Never swim while you are intoxicated. Alcohol impairs judgement and unnecessary risks are taken. An intoxicated swimmer will tire more easily, increasing the chance of an accident or drowning.
Avoid swimming immediately after a big meal, as there is a danger of having cramps.
Do not dive into shallow seawater – many paraplegics broke their necks by diving into shallow pools and dams.
Do not swim in river mouths, in dirty water, very early in the mornings, early evenings or after it had rained as shark activity increases in these conditions. Also do not swim when bluebottles are present as they are poisonous.
Never swim alone – use the buddy system.
Do not overestimate your swimming ability, especially early in the summer when the water is cold. One’s swimming ability severely decreases in cold water.
If you are confronted by a large wave and there is not enough time to swim or move away from it, try to dive underneath the wave. Keep your body as low as possible until the wave has passed over you. Timing is important, dive into the base of the wave just before it breaks. Do not dive if the water is too shallow – instead crouch and keep a low body profile.
If you are caught in rip currents, relax and swim toward the shore at a 45-degree angle until you are free of the current.
Never try to swim ashore against the current – it will only tire you.
If the rip currents are strong, swim parallel with the shoreline in the same direction as the littoral current, and then swim diagonally toward the shore.
If you are not able to swim out of the currents, call or wave for help.
Never leave a young child unattended near water and never make a child responsible for another child – not even for five minutes. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing drowning or permanent disability.
Swimming aids, such as water wings or noodles, are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used instead of approved flotation devices.
Be alert and steer clear of plant and animal life. Jellyfish, stingrays and other marine animals can cause painful stings or allergic reactions. Brushing up against certain types of seaweed or coral can result in painful scratches and scrapes.
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