With the summer holidays fast approaching many families will be looking forward to a well earned break.
CFOA works closely with organisations such as RLSS UK, RoSPA, RNLI and MCA to spread awareness about water safety in the UK. Please don’t forget these water safety messages when you are away from home this summer.
The issue of drowning is certainly not unique to the UK. Lack of local knowledge can also mean that foreign waters pose more risk to a visiting tourist and relaxed behaviour around pools can and does lead to tragedy. About ¼ (143) of drownings in Spain are foreign nationals according to Escuela Segovia de Socorrismo.
Find the best spot
The temptation is to find that hidden gem of a beach and get away from everyone else. A secluded beach is not the safest option.
We strongly suggest you use a lifeguarded beach during patrolled hours. If you have children they are like a second set of eyes however, it is important to remember that it is up to you to correctly supervise children not the lifeguard.
Dress your children in something nice and bright/ distinctive – it is easier to keep an eye on them. Make sure your children know what to do or where to go if they get lost – agree a meeting point or go to the lifeguards.
As well a looking for people in difficulty lifeguards are also looking for other dangers such as jellyfish which may make swimming dangerous.
For holidays in the UK the RNLI have a great page on their website which allows you to look up a beach and find details of the facilities and lifeguard dates and times. It is also worth spending some time taking a look at their Respect The Water campaign which runs through the summer and highlights the issue of coastal drownings and the work RNLI to reduce the number of deaths.
For Ireland you can check for lifeguarded beaches on Irish Water Safety.
In Spain the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) patrol many beaches and you can search for a lifeguarded beach on their site by putting in the coastal area of Spain you are visiting. It also provides useful information about each beach such as facilities and hours the beach is manned.
The Australian Lifeguard Service can help you find a suitable beach and in addition they have a beach safe app which you can download and make sure you have up to date information about nearby beaches on your holiday.
Obviously we can’t list all countries here but a simple web search for the country or region you are visiting for lifeguarded beaches should present you with useful information.
The water even in a hot region can still be very cold. This can be exacerbated by going from very hot air to cold water. Cold water shock kills. It doesn’t matter if you are normally a strong swimmer.
Learn the language
Make sure you know what the flags on the beach mean. They will indicate if you should enter the water. Like language there are differences between countries. So it’s worth double checking any information boards at the beach or asking a lifeguard.
In the UK and Australia you can expect to see red over yellow flags for a swimming area observed by lifeguards. You should swim between the flags. Also be aware that in the course of a day the lifeguards may change the position of the flags on the beach in response to changes in the water. A red flag indicates you should not swim in the water.
Some countries such as Spain have adopted a traffic light system to indicate the conditions in the water. Red is do not enter (undercurrents, strong waves), yellow is be very cautious (possible change ) and green means calm waters (flat no undercurrent).Remember these are about the conditions in the water – they don’t mean no risk. In addition to these flags you should also see the red and yellow split flags for monitored safe swimming areas.
It is worth noting that in Italy a white flag rather than green means calm water conditions but in some areas of Spain such as the Costa del Sol a white flag can mean jellyfish. Ask if you aren’t sure.
France has a different system with triangular flags which also correspond to the above traffic light system with additional flags for water quality – blue triangle for good and orange for poor.
Relax by the pool
It’s not just the coast that poses a risk on holiday. It’s quite the norm nowadays to have a pool either at the hotel or at a villa. More information can be found on RoSPA’s website about the risks of pools.
In some countries such as France and Australia there are laws which means pools must be enclosed by fencing but the type of pools they apply to may differ and some countries have no such laws. It is also worth noting you should still remain vigilant even if there is a fence.
- Alcohol should be avoided – never swim after drinking and don’t drink next to the pool – it is very easy to feel drowsy or fall asleep after drinking in the sun
- Know your pool – check the depth, where is the deepest point? (the middle, which end)
- Don’t think arm bands or a rubber rings prevent drowning
- Clear trip hazards (such as toys) from around the pool
- Never leave a child unsupervised near or in a pool – not even for a second
- Don’t assume you will hear if there is a problem – children can slip below the surface silently
- Don’t assume because a hotel pool has an attendant or lifeguard you don’t need to supervise – and remember a pool attendant is not neccessarily a trained lifeguard
- Designate someone to keep an eye on the kids (take turns)– don’t assume that because there are a group of adults someone will notice a child falling in
- Never leave children supervising children near a pool
If you are holidaying with a pool check the safety arrangements beforehand. Some may have an alarm system where when set if the surface of the water is broken an alarm is activated.
Some young children have drowned as they have silently wandered to the pool either early in the morning or late at night when they were thought to be asleep. Consider taking devices such as portable door alarms on holiday.
One of the best things you can also do is make sure you know what to do in an emergency. Make sure you know basic first aid and the number to call to get help and the address of where you are staying.
Make sure your children can swim – for advice take a look at the Amateur Swimming Association website. You may also wish to sign Becky Ramsey’s petition calling for water safety to be part of the national curriculum.