South Australian Surf Lifesavers have experienced a dramatic spike in calls for assistance to drifting inflatable pool toys in the ocean this summer. On average, SA Surf Lifesavers have performed a rescue per week in relation to large inflatable pool toys this season.
The cause of the spike is the rise in popularity, availability and affordability of the pool toys, they have been best-selling Christmas gifts for the past two years in several major retailers.
The National Coastal Safety Report tells us that only 40% of the public can swim more than 50m without stopping in the ocean. Unfortunately we are seeing these large inflatables drift out up to 500m from the coastline making for some very dangerous situations.
Safety Hazards Using Large Inflatables in the Ocean:
- They are very unstable and difficult to stay on.
- They are high and catch the wind very easily. They are light and move in currents very quickly.
- They drift far and fast, up to 500m out to sea in 5 minutes in the wrong conditions.
- They fit more than one person on them and often have several people on them at a time.
- Adult supervision is frequently inadequate i.e. from the shore, they wait too long to intervene etc.
- People don’t know when to abandon the craft and jump off and swim to shore.
Safety Precautions for Large Inflatables:
- Only use water craft that are specifically designed to be used on the open water and have Australian Safety Standard Ratings on them.
- Inflatables are clearly labelled as pool toys not to be used as flotation devices and the public should respect safety warnings on packaging.
- If you are on a craft in the ocean it is important to wear the appropriate safety gear including life jackets and helmets.
- Check weather and water conditions before you enter and watch for changes particularly around tide movement and wind. If in doubt get out.
- Check for Rips before you enter and keep an eye out for Rip Currents whilst in the water. If you don’t know how to spot a Rip check the BeachSAFE website, the BeachSAFE app or Surf Life Saving Youtube channels and learn how. Rips are the number one killer on our oceans and all beachgoers should familiarise themselves with how to identify them and what to do if they are caught in one.
- If you do get in trouble, get off the inflatable as soon as you drift beyond the depth or distance that you are confident you can swim back to shore from and signal for help by raising an arm in the air, do not wait hoping circumstances will improve.
- The safest place to swim at the beach is always between the red and yellow flags at a patrolled beach and you can check local beach conditions and patrol times via the BeachSAFE app.