Surf Life Saving South Australia is urging swimmers to ‘draw a line’ in the sand and think about any risks and dangers before entering the water over the holiday period.
The new public safety campaign features Australians who have previously been caught in rips, and those who lost loved ones to rips, talking about their experiences.
“Our message to beachgoers is, please stop before you enter the water, have a look and a think about what hazards might be a risk where you are and make a mental note of your plan to get help or respond if you do get in trouble. Of course we always recommend you also swim between the red and yellow flags, it is the area supervised by surf lifesavers and lifeguards who can assist you should something go wrong,” said Surf Life Saving SA Spokesperson, Melissa Davis-Bishop.
“Rip related drownings and rescues are the number one hazard at the Australian coast. On average, at least 19 people drown per year nationally as a result of rip currents, and in South Australia they represent a third of fatalities. For the most part these tragedies are preventable so we hope that this campaign will help the public identify hazards and make a plan to avoid them” she said.
The Think Line campaign encourages the public to plan for emergencies at the beach and they can access education resources through www.beachsafe.org.au or the Beachsafe app.
Sobriety and safe play are also key components of that safety planning process “During the Christmas Break our biggest challenges come from two main issues which are: intoxication during aquatic activity and people using new toys or equipment that they are not used to” said Ms Davis Bishop.
With 17% of all drownings in Australia related to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, Surf Lifesavers are also on alert for intoxicated beachgoers during the festive season and are urging the public to stay sober around water.
Ms Davis-Bishop said “intoxication from drugs or alcohol increases risk taking behaviours and decreases physical capabilities and hazard perception which is very dangerous around the water. If you do want to indulge during the festive season we strongly urge the public not to enter the water or take responsibility for operating watercraft or supervising children around water”.
Ms Davis-Bishop also highlighted the appropriate use of safety gear as critical in ensuring safety with Christmas presents. “Life jackets, helmets, leg ropes, Epirbs and the like are essential companion gifts to any aquatic toys or craft you are planning to give loved ones. All too often we see tragedy strike the first time someone uses new gear so make sure you read your safety guidelines. Take it easy and stay within your skill set and under the supervision of lifeguards at a patrolled beach the first few times you use new items if possible”.
Volunteer Surf Lifesavers will be on patrol at Clubs from 12pm – 5pm on weekends and public holidays with the State Emergency Crews on 24 hour call and on patrol from 9am. Visit www.beachsafe.org.au or download the beachsafe app to check patrol times and live local conditions at your favourite beach.
Holiday Safety Tips:
Never swim alone.
Read and obey the signs.
Don't swim directly after a meal.
Don't swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Always check the depth of the water.
Never run or dive into the water. Even if you have checked the depth, water conditions can change.
If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm. Signal for help, by holding up one arm and waving, float and wait for assistance.
Be sun smart: slip, slop, slap, seek, slide. Slip on a shirt, slop on 30+ sunscreen, slap on a brimmed hat, seek shade, slide on sunglasses. Remember to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming.
Learn how to spot a rip and keep clear of it.
Keep the beach clean, put your rubbish in a bin. Leave nothing but footprints.
Keep out of dunes and fenced areas. They are there to preserve the beach environment.
Always swim at beaches with patrolling lifesavers or lifeguards. The Beachsafe App can find your closest patrolled beach.
Aquatic Toy Safety Tips:
Be careful with new equipment, test it, make sure it is in good repair and they you understand how to operate it.
Check weather and Surf conditions before heading out
Always supervise children on flotation devices, remain close to shore and watch for wind changes.
With new Boogie Boards and Surf Boards, don’t surf the wrong waves, match the size of the wave to the skill of the surfer.
Rafts and inner tubes are not appropriate for non-swimmers or weak swimmers as they may drift out on tides/winds.
Skim boards are trickier than they seem and can lead to nasty injuries including chipped teeth, grazes, sprains and broken bones.
Ocean craft such as SUP, Kayaks and Surf Skis should always be used for the first time in calm conditions at a patrolled beach.