In sunny South Africa, we prefer to spend our summers in and around the water, whether it’s on board a boat or from the banks of your favourite watering hole. Over the festive season, South Africans flock to our abundance of beaches, dams and rivers to cool off, relax their bodies and to find temporary relief from the hot climate.
Alarming Drowning Statistics
However, water can be a dangerous place for people when you don’t treat it with vigilance and respect. Many people die each year over the festive season by not practising extreme caution when near or in the water. To illustrate my point, here are a couple of scary facts:
In South Africa, death by drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury.
For every five children that are resusitated one will suffer sever brain damage.
Drowning happens silently and quickly, even in shallow waters.
Within 30 seconds, a small child can drown in 4 cm of water without a sound.
Keeping a child within arm’s length in and around water can prevent fatalities.
Drinking alcohol impairs one’s swimming ability and vigilance.
You can prevent drowning by….
Always being on the lookout for possible dangers in and around the water.
Take heed of safety tips and warning signs.
Always know where your child is at all times.
Keep your child within arm’s length.
Ensuring water safety.
Irresponsible boating is a real major concern and a leading cause of accidental deaths this time of the year. Not wearing a lifejacket and the consumption of alcohol are often the main causes of death on our waterways, and safe boating is essential if you don’t want to end up as another water death statistic this summer.
Attend boating education courses. Based on reports, the majority of boating accidents are caused by operator negligence. The main causes of such incidents are skipper’s inattentiveness, unsafe speeds, lack of boating experience and recklessness. Skippers’ courses focus on the regulatory and legislative rules for the safe navigation and operation of recreational boating.
VERY IMPORTANT: Wear your lifejacket AT ALL TIMES! The use of flotation devices can reduce cases of drowning. Modern lifejackets are striking in appearance and are more relaxing to wear as well. When properly worn, lifejackets or PFDs can prevent serious tragedies and mishaps.
If your boat has capsized, it’s important to follow procedures to ensure the safety of those aboard. Remain calm, and ensure that everybody sticks together. Whenever possible, remain as close to the boat as you can, unless there is an inherent danger close by.
If a fire takes place onboard, the first thing that you need to do is stop moving the boat. The wind can whip up a fire very quickly. Turn off your electricity after radioing for help. If the fire is caused by wood, fabric, or another dry source, pour water on it. Oil and grease fires can be extinguished by fire extinguisher, and you should aim for the base of the fire while extinguishing.
Avoid boating while under the influence of alcohol. It’s well-known that alcohol can impair the body’s balance, co-ordination, vision and judgment. Researchers recently revealed that alcohol is a contributing influence or cause of roughly one-third of recorded boating fatalities. Nine out of 10 boating deaths are due to drowning and you are more likely to fall out of the boat whilst intoxicated.
Exercise etiquette in boat launching and retrieving. Remove straps and covers before launching your boat in the water. Practise how to properly load and unload when it’s not too hectic at the launching ramp.
BOATERS: The law requires you to be in possession of a Certificate of Competence (COC) or Skipper’s Licence. The National Small Vessel Safety Regulations 2007 require Cat R & E skippers (1 nautical mile) to have to the following safety equipment onboard:
A SABS 1.5 kg Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher — one per engine.
1 Decal set of registration numbers for boat and trailers.
SABS/CE/ISO Approved Buoyancy Aids.
Set of oars or a collapsible oar for a jetski.
One patent anchor.
3 m chain.
50 m rope.
First Aid Kit.
That’s right, the silly season is here, and we all know that there will be thousands of visitors coming down to our beaches, to enjoy the sun, sand, surf and the fishing. Here are a few more tips to stay safe at the beach or undertaking fishing sports this summer…
Always swim or surf at places patrolled by lifeguards. Swim between the red and yellow flags. They mark the safer areas for swimming.
Always swim under supervision. Never swim alone.
Always keep an active watch on your young ones while at the beach.
Read and obey the signs, they are there for a good reason.
If you’re unsure of surf conditions, talk to a lifeguard.
Avoid swimming directly after a meal, and don’t swim under the influence of alcohol.
Please don’t leave any glass whatsoever behind on the beach.
Never run or dive in the water, even if you have checked. Water conditions can change.
Know your own swimming abilities and fitness prowess — know your levels.
If you get into trouble, stay calm. Signal for help, float, and wait for assistance.
Use sunscreen and wear a hat. Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming.
Be very careful and watch the mood of the sea closely. Every year anglers are washed off rocks or swept out to sea and drown.
Let a responsible person know your location and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). Stick to your plan. If you don’t come home at expected time, call and arrange.
Don’t get too close to the shore’s edge, especially when fishing from the rocks.
Be acutely aware of high and low tide times, and the monthly spring tides, which might affect your regular fishing spot.
If you don’t know the area, watch the water and time those waves.
Don’t fish alone at night or on an empty beach, always go with someone, or fish where there is a crowd.
Clean up your fishing spot when you’re done, leave only your footprints behind.
Be safe, responsible and vigilant on the water this festive season, and make it a joyous and memorable boating experience for you and the entire family! Enjoy the silly season and safe boating for all!