This holiday think sun, sea and safety (10 Jul 2006)
This holiday think sun, sea and safety

WITH thousands of people going abroad at this time of year, beaches and swimming pools offer an irresistible lure.

It all looks great in the brochures, but in the euphoria of flying away for that hard-earned break, some people tend to lose all sense of safety.

How often have you seen people plunging into pools at three, or four, o’clock in the morning, intoxicated to the gills after a night’s clubbing? Here at home, we have around 170 drownings per year — a lot of lives lost and a lot of heartbreak for families. And these are deaths that could be avoided in many instances.

When people are on foreign holidays, however, there’s a tendency to relax safety precautions. Another thing is that water safety does not always receive the same priority overseas as it does at home.

As more and more Irish people go on such holidays the number of our citizens being drowned abroad is rising, according to Irish Water Safety chief executive John Leech.

“Whilst we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of drownings at home over the last five years, now the lowest since 1965, we’re noticing an increase in the number of drownings abroad of Irish citizens,” he says.

Apart from sheer carelessness and swimming after consuming alcohol, for example, people can be caught unaware of differing practices, policies and signage.

One of the first things many Irish people notice when they go on sun holidays is the absence of lifeguards, who often don’t appear to be operating at the same level in many other countries as they do here.

Parents need to be particularly careful to supervise their children at all times, Mr Leech stresses.

The picture-postcard scenes at venues abroad can often mask hidden dangers. People who travel outside of Ireland on their holidays must be aware of the fact that swimming pools in holiday centres, whether indoor or outdoor, may be only partially life guarded or not life guarded at all.

Consequently, extra precautions must be taken from the moment of arrival at the holiday centre to the time of departure. On arrival at a holiday centre, which has a swimming pool, do not allow children to go immediately to the swimming pool until you have checked out the safety arrangements.

People should also acquaint themselves with the manner in which flags are used on beaches, which are often different to what we see at home. They are also advised to swim in the designated swimming area while in the sea. Sometimes, the red and yellow flags indicate the zoned area for swimming.

Mr Leech is also pleading with the public to safeguard ringbuoys in order to help reduce drowning.

He warns lives will be lost unless the public assists local authorities to ensure that ringbuoys are protected and left intact in places where they are readily available. Ringbuoys have helped save many lives and are an absolutely necessity in areas where people have regular access to water.

“Some irresponsible members of the public vandalise these lifesaving appliances. Some of the local authorities on their regular checks particularly in urban areas discover that they are either missing or have been vandalised,” Mr Leech goes on.

“There is obviously a financial cost to this vandalism to be borne by the ratepayers and taxpayers, but the serious risk is to human life caused by the deliberate damage to this equipment,” Mr Leech says.

Ringbuoys, he points out, have played an important role in reducing accidental drowning by about 38% and, in the case of non-accidental drownings, by about 55%.

Contact: Irish Examiner - Thomas Crosbie Media
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