independent

Friday 29 August 2014

Enjoy the sun and sea... but stay safe

Fintan Lambe

Published 12/07/2014 | 12:00

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Lifeguards at Duncannon Beach on Friday were David Stebbing and Madalina Craciun

WHEN the weather warms up, there's nothing nicer than heading to the beach or another waterway to cool down with a refreshing swim.

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Some 500,000 primary school children are now on their summer holidays, and when the sun's out, thousands of them will flock to the county's beaches and other swimming spots.

Irish Water Safety this week issued some simple advice to ensure people stay safe while swimming.

The main piece of advice is to swim at a Lifeguarded beach or pool if at all possible. Last July alone, some 559 people around the country were rescued from drowning by Lifeguards.

On average, there are 140 drownings in Ireland every year. In 2012, 147 people drowned - this was just 15 fewer than the 162 road deaths in the same year. Some 80 per cent of victims drown in their own county, and 62 per cent drown in an inland waterway.

'There were no drownings on Lifeguarded beaches, when they were on duty,' said Roger Sweeney of Irish Water Safety. 'The Lifeguards are trained and assessed by Irish Water Safety, and they are there to help keep people safe.'

He pointed out that Lifeguards must not be used as a babysitting service, and parents should not leave children unattended if they have to leave the beach for whatever reason. 'In July last year, some 575 children were found by Lifeguards, wandering near waterways and reunited with their parents and guardians.'

He also advised adults not to mix swimming with alcohol, pointing out that a third of drowning victims have consumed alcohol.

Irish Water Safety also runs swim weeks and water safety lessons in the summer and in winter, and both children and adults are encouraged to learn to swim, and to learn about water safety. Roger pointed out that even though there are half a million primary school children in Ireland, primary schools only ordered 40,000 free water safety certificates for children from Irish Water Safety last year. Information and safe swimming tips for children are available on www.aquaattack.ie

'Always swim within your depth, and swim close and parallel to the shore,' said Roger. 'The majority of drownings, 62 per cent, occur inland where river and lake beds can be difficult to see and therefore extremely difficult to determine if you are swimming within your depth.'

'The onset of cramp, combined with the panicked realisation that you are out of your depth can have tragic consequences and be compounded further by the muscle cooling effect of longer periods in open water,' he added.

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