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Water Safety

MODULE 4:

WATER SAFETY AT SEA & INLAND WATER

General Rules

 

Many people drown or are severely injured because they dove in shallow water in rivers, lakes or at sea. Make sure that it is safe to engage yourself in an aquatic activity in these aquatic environments, is by asking someone who knows this area. Such persons may be fishermen, locals and shopkeeper.

Safety on the Beach

 

  • Never swim alone.
  • Avoid swimming in unknown waters because there are often hidden dangers and isolation when emergencies occur.
  • Avoid racing out to a floating buoy because tides and currents may change.
  • A crowd of people surrounded at the same place can be a sign of a problem.
  • Never call for ‘help’ in fun, because you may place at risk someone else’s life.
  • Learn to recognise danger signs and warning signals.
  • When you see someone who is drowning or is in danger, notify the lifeguard or the Coast Guard.
  • If you are involved in an emergency, reassure the casualty.
  • If you find yourself being carried out by the tide do not fight it. Swim slowly in a diagonal direction across the current. Remember, a tide flows parallel to the shore. Swimming across the tide gets you ashore, and is less tiring than fighting against it.
  • Do not swim out from the beach. Swim until the limit of the buoys or carefully estimate your swimming ability for your return back to the beach.
  • If you feel tired or suffer from cramp, lie on your front. Take a deep breath and drop your head into the water. Kick your feet and push up with your hands. Lift your head, breathe out. Breathe in and float again.
  • Avoid swimming in wavy or rough seas.
  • Be especially careful anywhere where water flows quickly.
  • Avoid rescuing anyone in danger if you aren’t qualified to do so.
  • If you cannot help yourself, or perhaps you have fallen out of a boat and need to let other people know where you are, cup your hands and push the surface layer of water away from you as hard as you can. This is easy to see, especially if it catches the sunlight.
  • Water sports can take place only in specially planned areas. The areas should be marked by flags which contain the craft / equipment users.
  • If you feel cold get out of the water, cover yourself with a towel and sit under the sun to dry.
  • Children must always be accompanied by an adult.
  • Someone able-bodied must accompany people with disabilities. Explain to the lifeguard the type of your disability.
  • Never dive headfirst into water you haven’t been in before, that is less than 1.5m deep, if you cannot clearly see the bottom, from rocks or the beach until you are sure that the water is deep enough. Every year people dive and often break their necks, perhaps having to spend the rest of their life in a wheelchair.
  • Always walk into the sea until you are sure there’s nothing there you could injury yourself on.
  • Note the location of the nearest telephone box and first aid kit.
  • Don’t play around with rafts and floating objects, fun thought it may be. Currents, tides and wind can quickly drive them out to sea.
  • Though speed is obvious when someone is in need of help, before entering the water, take off all heavy or outer garments, shoes, coat etc. This should never be tried without suitable safety protection from qualified personnel and instruction.
  • If you fall into water fully clothed, remember that certain heavy clothing must be removed to assist buoyancy and that some clothing, such as windcheaters, can help to keep out the cold and remain buoyant.
  • Before swimming in open water find out where it is safe to bathe. Always swim at beaches supervised by qualified lifeguards.
  • Beware that games with airbeds could be dangerous.
  • Take care when chasing beach balls because they can be carried out to sea by the tide.
  • Learn to swim.
  • Beware of big waves. Learn to dive through them.
  • Do not walk on dangerous limited coastal areas. The subsoil can give way.
  • Do not dive from higher places than the surface of the water or into unknown water. Avoid diving into water with rocks, glass and heavily littered and polluted water.
  • Avoid contact with underwater life, sharp corals or rocks.
  • Do not put your hands into holes/crevasses by the sea. They can hide many dangers including marine life.
  • Do not play beach volley, football or tennis on the sand in non-designated areas. You may injury people who are sunbathing, as sand can accidentally be thrown into their eyes.
  • Do not bring animals onto organised beaches.
  • Leave the coastal area clean when you depart. Rubbish that you leave or bury could injure someone.
  • Swim only if you are sure that water is clean. Potential industrial discharges may cause irritation on the skin and generally affect on your health.
  • Do not fight on the beach. It is public area and can cause injuries.
  • The body muscles have negative buoyancy and the body fat positive buoyancy. A high proportion of body fat in a swimmer’s body will allow a higher floating position in the water and easier swimming.
  • Do not swim if you have drunk alcohol. Research shows that many drownings are directly related to drinking.
  • Know about the special hazards of a non-organised swimming area such as sea currents, weirs, deep water, and jellyfish.
  • Stay by your children at all the times, especially when they are near the water.
  • Do not cover the safety signboards with clothes or other materials.
  • Do not drink water from unknown fountains.
  • Ports or under precipices have often revealed sunken cars on the seabed. If your car has been parked on a slope near a precipice or the sea, put it in reverse on a slope (if facing down hill or first gear if facing up hill), be sure that the hand break is on, and always park your car parallel to the water’s edge on jetties, cliffs tops or docks.
  • If car is moving on a wet sliding road, reduce your speed and don’t drive under the influence of drink or when you are tired.
  • When in charge of a group of children keep a constant and careful check on where they are in the water and you should supervise and not swim yourself. You must give special attention to children aged under 8 years old. Neuromuscular conditions can develop spontaneous action that can be dangerous. The children will want to behave like the adults and if possible imitate in their games, scenes of drowning from TV.

Skin Protection

 

Do not stay too long under the sun. You are in danger from short-term consequences (burns, collapse, and sunstroke) and long-term ailments (skin cancer). Protect your skin from the sun and the risks of skin cancer.

 

  • Avoid the midday sun (between 11am-3pm).
  • Cover up with long sleeve shirts and hats.
  • Use a sunscreen on your skin for protection.
  • Take care not to burn because it doesn’t protect you against sunburn in the future. Burnt skin doesn’t tan more quickly just more painfully.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Tan slowly, gradually increasing the time you spend in the sun each day.
  • Young children should always be protected, either covered up or with a high-protection sunscreen. Babies should never be allowed out when the sun is hot.

Survival Techniques

 

  • If you are engaged in aquatic activities, you should learn basic survival techniques. Such techniques are the H.E.L.P. position, the Huddle position, and the drown-proofing technique.
  • Learn the ‘drown-proofing’ technique. It is a self-survival skill that will help you gain confidence in your ability to cope in a typical deep-water emergency where you must stay afloat to survive. It does offer a person a good chance of survival provided they are not in cold water, severely injured or being held under water.
  • Learn the ‘Travel Technique of Drown-proofing’. It aims to meet the special needs of the poor floater and non-floater. Every swimmer will benefit from learning this clothed or when you need to travel toward safety and are not able to use a regular swimming stroke, possibly due to injury.
  • Anything that holds enough air and can be inflated to help hold a swimmer up above the water can save a life. Cans and bottles are of dubious value, but are almost always available to a man as are his trousers. It may help, if you are likely to be in the water for any length of time, to remove clothes that are a hindrance to you.
  • Articles like jackets present little difficulty. You can take them off, white treading water, much as if you were on dry land.
  • Those that come over the head should be rolled up closely under the armpits. It is then possible, by one quick lift to get the roll over the head.
  • Garments which have to fall from off the legs usually do so if your belt is undone. You can start these movements while taking off your upper garments and then give such help as may be necessary with your hands. Naturally, unbuttoning, untying of tapes, stretching of elastic etc, must be given attention first to make removal possible.
  • Special caution is needed when removing over the head clothing made of nylon-type material. Rolling first, as suggested above, prevents a dangerous flat sheet of material from covering the mouth.
  • In warm waters, if you feel tired and you are far from the beach, use the face up star position.  When you feel stronger try to swim slowly back to shore.
  • Never swim in cold water. It will exhaust the best swimmer.
  • Know the high and the low tide times and the time of their changing. If the tide is 1m, it is able to cause drowning of a small child.
  • If you have a cramp, float in the mushroom position in the water and extend your muscle, pull it in the opposite direction to the cramping which will extend the muscle.
  • If you have trousers on in the water, take them off and make an inflated life belt from them.
  • Always wear a personal floatation device. The main points to consider when selecting a lifejacket, are the location of use and likely conditions encountered, the activity itself, the swimming ability, age and size of the wearer, and finally the use of additional personal protective equipment.
  • If you are in the water with others, use the ‘Huddle Position’ to maximise your survival time. If you have a small child with you, or an infant, put them inside your cycle.
  • Whatever position you have in cold water, keep your head out of the water.
  • If you are alone in the water and you are wearing a lifejacket, take the HELP position to maximise your survival time and to try and avoid hypothermia.
  • Avoid unnecessary movements in cold water. You will lose your energy and suffer from hypothermia. Stay motionless although you will feel pain from the cold.
  • Find ways to communicate with someone before your hands paralyse from the cold water.
  • Use boats you are familiar with or stay near an experienced trainer.
  • Do not allow yourself to drift away from the shore.
  • If you enjoy yachting, learn about the weather.
  • If fall into the water wearing clothes, take off only the heaviest of them (i.e. coats, shoes etc), which can make buoyancy more difficult. Don’t take off all of your clothes; they will help you to insulate your body from the cold water.
  • Prepare yourself for entry into the cold water. Some authors have identified death from cold shock after unexpected entry into the cold environment. The sympathetic system of your body will also make your breathing faster during the initial entry into cold water and this increases the risk of water going into the lungs.

Cold Water Safety

 

The 4 golden rules of cold water safety, that should be applied all together, are:

 

  • Always wear your personal flotation device.
  • Always dress based on the water temperature.
  • Test your attire at the aquatic place that you will use it.
  • Imagine the worst that could possibly happen to you and plan for it.

River Safety

 

  • Enter the water slowly always feet first.
  • Do not swim in rivers where the water is flowing fast. Always check the speed of the water by throwing in a piece of wood, prior your entry, to see how fast it travels.
  • If you are caught in a current, lay on your back and allow the current to travel your body downstream feet first, so you can protect your head from injuries in case that it will hit any objects.
  • Do not stand near the edge of overhanging river banks, because they can collapse.
  • Beware of potentially submerged objects such as trees, branches, rocks and trash that can be very dangerous if you are swimming, canoeing or even walking.
  • After a heavy raining, a changing seasonal weather pattern or the release of water from a storage area, the conditions can dramatically change. Therefore, you need to be prepared for the worse possible scenario prior you engage yourself in an aquatic activity.
  • Be careful when you are walking on unstable, uneven and slippery riverbeds.

Lake Safety

 

  • Enter the water slowly always feet first.
  • Although the water of a lake may look safe it can often hide dangers. An unexpected sudden strong wind can cause difficulties to a swimmer or boater.
  • A lake may have very low water temperature. The temperature is often much colder below the water surface. Thus, a sudden submersion into cold water can cause distress, cold shock response, cold incapacitation, hypothermia, and circum-rescue collapse. Therefore, whenever you feel cold, get out of the water and try to stay warm.
  • A strong river current may possibly be at the entry of a lake, making the lake bed soft and uneven where silt is deposited.

Note

The above general aquatic safety information does apply equally well to ALL participants, including individuals with a variety of disabilities. A disability does not cancel out safety precautions.

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