How to stay safe at SA’s beaches this summer

Posted by Adrian Brown on 13 December 2018

The school holidays are here, and many families and students will be heading down to the seaside to frolic in the ocean. With this increased activity on beaches, there is a greater risk of accidents and potential drowning and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has advised locals and international visitors to be cautious when taking a dip in the waves.

The Institute strongly encourages people to only go to beaches with lifeguards on duty and to swim only between the allocated safety flags, as lifeguards will be better able to provide immediate assistance to those in danger.

“That way you don’t need to worry about rip currents, or suddenly getting out of your depth. Putting an arm in the air and waving for help will get a rapid response from the lifeguards on duty. Unfortunately, for various reasons, people regularly swim where there are no lifeguards on duty. This may be on a beach after the lifeguard’s duty has finished for the day or at a beach that does not have lifeguards. This is when things can go wrong,” said the NSRI in a statement.

The NSRI’s 10 safety tips for swimming at beaches this summer

1. Swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty
Lifeguards are on duty at selected beaches between 10am and 6pm on weekends and in the week during the summer school holidays. Listen to their advice and talk to them about safety on the beach that you are visiting. They are the experts on that beach. If lifeguards are not on duty, do not swim.

2. Swim between the lifeguard’s flags
Teach children that if they swim between the lifeguards flags the lifeguards will be watching them and can help if there is a problem. Lifeguards watch swimmers very carefully between the flags – just wave an arm if you need help.

3. Don’t Drink and Drown
Alcohol and water do not mix. Never drink alcohol and then swim.

4. Don’t swim alone. Always swim with a buddy
If you are with another person while swimming, you will have someone who can call for help for you if you need it and are unable to wave to the lifeguards or call for help yourself.

5. Adult supervision and barriers to water are vital
Adults who are supervising children in or near water must be able to swim. This is vital if it is at a water body that does not have lifeguards on duty. It is extremely dangerous to get into the water to rescue someone so rather throw something that floats to the person in difficulty and call for help (112 from a cell phone and check for the nearest Sea Rescue station telephone number before you visit a beach – put that number into your cell phone). Children should not be able to get through or over barriers such as pool fences to water.

6. Know how to survive rip currents
If you swim between the lifeguard flags they will make sure that you are safe and well away from rip currents. If, for some reason, this is not possible, do not swim. Educate yourself about rip currents, there is plenty of educational material here including videos of what rip currents look like.

7Don’t attempt a rescue yourself
Call a lifeguard or the NSRI by dialling 112 from your cell phone for help—it’s free. If you see someone in difficulty, call a lifeguard immediately or dial the nearest Sea Rescue station from your cell phone. You should put this number into your phone before you go to the beach – get all emergency numbers for NSRI here or Google for the closest NSRI station emergency number.

112 is a good emergency number – for any emergency, not just beach-related ones – to dial. After calling for help try and throw something that floats to the person in difficulty, like a ball or foam board.

8. Do not let children use floating objects, toys or tire tubes at the beach or on dams
You can very quickly get blown far away from the shore, and as much fun as tubes and Styrofoam are, it is easy to fall off them. If a child can’t swim and falls off in deep water they will drown.

9. Do not be distracted by your cell phone or social media when supervising children
When you are looking after children in or near water you need to focus on them and nothing else. Adults who are supervising children allow themselves to be distracted or use their cell phone. It’s not possible to concentrate on watching children in the water and be on your phone at the same time.

10. Visit a beach that has lifeguards on duty – there is a reason that we have repeated this!

Here’s an explanation of the flag signs you’ll see on allocated beaches:

NSRI/Beach flags

The Pink Rescue Buoy

The Sea Rescue organisation has invented and implemented an award winning mechanism, the Pink Rescue Buoy, which acts as a safety floatation device in the case of the incident of someone struggling in the water.

“In a typical scenario Sea Rescue gets an emergency call for a swimmer in difficulty and, when we get there, we find two or more people in danger of drowning.  Tragically, sometimes we are not able to get there in time and someone drowns. Often the person who does not survive is sadly the kind person who went into the water to try and help a person who was in difficulty.”

In an effort to reduce the number of drownings, Pink Rescue Buoys have been strategically placed signs at popular beaches to help those with immediate access to an emergency flotation device. The signs have clear instructions on how to use the Pink Rescue Buoy and the emergency contact number for the nearest Sea Rescue station.




The NSRI has advised the public to be aware and remember that drowning is completely silent. “Someone who is drowning will usually not shout for help. They will be vertical in the water (like they are trying to stand or climb stairs) and they will then silently slip under the water.”


Picture: Pixabay


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