independent

Saturday 20 September 2014

Six Wexford beaches have lifeguards

Published 12/07/2014 | 12:00

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Lifeguards Dan Fitzpatrick and Bernard Steemers on Courtown’s north beach last week.

SIX of Co. Wexford's beaches are patrolled by Lifeguards each summer, seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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The Lifeguards are trained by Irish Water Safety and employed by Wexford County Council. 'We normally have two Lifeguards on per beach at any one time, but if it gets particularly warm, we would consider putting three Lifeguards on a beach,' said Tom Doyle, who oversees the Council's Lifeguard operation.

'We have Lifeguards on six beaches including: Ballymoney; Courtown; Morriscastle; Curracloe; Rosslare; and Duncannon,' he said. 'Their primary concern is the safety of people in the water. They also offer first aid facilities as well and general safety on the beach.'

'It can be a difficult job when there are large numbers of people on the beach,' he continued. 'They are there for a serious reason, which is to save lives. They would all be familiar with local conditions under beaches, such as tides, sandbanks and the various hazards.'

He said that the Lifeguards swim the beach every day, to check conditions, and to maintain their ongoing fitness. When the red and yellow flags are flying, these indicate the Lifeguards are on duty, that it's safe to swim, and that the Lifeguards are patrolling the area between the flags.

'If for any reason the Lifeguards deem it not safe to swim, they will fly red flags,' explained Tom. 'This could be because of a strong wind, pollution, an offshore breeze, or any number of reasons. Fortunately, that doesn't happen too often.'

Last year, there were a number of high profile emergencies where Lifeguards lent assistance on beaches in the county. In one instance, a woman got into difficulty after swimming, and a helicopter had to be called to Courtown to bring her to hospital. In another incident in Courtown, a man got into difficulty on the beach, and emergency services had to be called in.

'It's their job to be vigilant, and they primarily watch the sea,' said Tom. 'They patrol up and down the beach when people are in the water, and they stay in communication with each other by hand signals or two-way radios.'

'The Lifeguards train up through Water Safety courses in their teens, and finally do the Irish Water Safety Beach Lifeguard award,' he continued. 'Then, the Council puts them through a separate exam to assess their suitability for the job. This assessment is water based and land based and there's also an interview. They also have to be good swimmers, and they need a good knowledge of resuscitation and basic first aid.'

Tom encourages everyone to learn to swim and to learn water safety. 'The Water Safety Week in Courtown each summer is one of the largest in the country,' he said. 'Curracloe has a big Swim Week and Water Safety Week too.'

Wexford County Council also has 400 ringbuoys around the county, and these are checked regularly, but if people notice one missing or damaged, they're encouraged to report it using the number on the box. The Council also places notices at waterways under its control where it's deemed unsafe to swim.

'If you're unfamiliar with the area, ask someone locally if it is safe to swim, and if in doubt, don't swim,' advised Tom. 'If we put up signs saying there are certain issues, they are there for a reason.'

'We have a lovely coastline, and it's there to be enjoyed,' he concluded. 'Everybody should learn to swim. It's an enjoyable and healthy pastime, and something everyone should enjoy.'

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