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Saturday August 5th: Fatima’s call to penance and sacrifice
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Beach safety

Halfway through the July and August vacation period (JAVA), we have already seen a few beach-related deaths. The Trinidad and Tobago Life Saving Society (TTLSS) Education officer Wayne Drysdale takes this opportunity to provide water safety tips that can assist our citizens during the JAVA, to ensure valuable safety information reaches the public to minimise the loss of life through drowning.

  • Always check the weather conditions before going to the beach.
  • Choose to go to beaches that have lifeguards, they are the experts and would advise safe bathing areas and ensure your safety as you enjoy the water.
  • If going to an unpatrolled beach, ask the residents about water conditions.
  • If you look at the water and it looks dangerous to you then it is dangerous.
  • Observe the slope of the sand leading towards the water. If it is steep, consider that beach extremely dangerous. As the waves wash up onto the beach the water running back to the sea will have great force dragging unsuspecting people into the water. Beaches showing these conditions will have strong rip currents.
  • Pay attention to warning signs posted at the beaches: they are there for your safety.
  • Never go swimming alone (the best swimmers can get into difficulty).
  • Avoid swimming out to sea, swim parallel to the shore so that if you get tired or in trouble you are not too far out to swim safely back to shore.
  • Never overestimate your swimming ability, keep within your capability.
  • Be aware that there are 4 changes of tides in a day, approximately every 6 hours. People get stranded at inlets and fishermen can be washed off rocks on the rising tide.
  • Come out of the water immediately if there is lightning.
  • Wait at least 1 hour after having a meal before going swimming as you could vomit and choke on your vomit, or you may cramp up while in deep waters.
  • Non and weak swimmers should never depend on flotation devices as they are easily moved by the wind and currents, and they could also suddenly deflate.
  • If on a flotation device and it is carried into deep water, DO NOT JUMP OFF and try to swim to shore, most people who attempt this lose their lives this way. Stay calm, hold on to the float, wave one hand and call for help.
  • Be aware of watercraft users that may be close to you (boats, jet skis etc.)
  • Children should be observed at all times; parents or guardians should always be within arm’s reach.
  • Red flags identify dangerous bathing areas such as rip currents, rocks, and other objects as fallen trees etc. that might not always be visible. Do not swim in front of a red flag.
  • Flags that are half red and half yellow identify safe bathing areas of the beach. (They also identify the patrolled areas of the beach). Look carefully and bathe only between two red and yellow flags.
  • Rip currents are the number one reason for loss of life at our beaches in Trinidad and Tobago and around the world. Learn to identify them and how to escape if caught in a rip current.
  • What are rip currents? Rip currents are powerful channels of water that pull you seaward from as close as the shoreline. They happen at beaches with waves, near rocks, jetties, or piers.
  • Rip currents are identified by:
  1. brownish lines of water that extend beyond the breakers or waves.
  2. A lot of debris or leaves in one area.
  3. The water in that area looks choppier than the water close by.
  4. The water can also take on a smooth and calm look compared to the water nearby.
  5. Waves may appear to go crisscross in those areas.
  6. Waves may not break in those areas as the white foam and tumbling of breaking waves will not be visible in those areas.

How to escape a rip current

The seabed around the rip current is usually deeper than the seabed at both sides of the rip. You suddenly realize you are in deep water; you may simply have been pulled parallel to the shore and fell into a hole as you try to stand up, the sand is shifting under your feet, and you cannot grip onto the seabed. You are now under the force of the rip current which begins to pull you towards the deep. On realising this you should:

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Immediately move parallel to the shoreline in the direction you think you were pulled from or if not moving go parallel to the shoreline in the opposite direction.
  3. If pulled into deep water and you can swim, swim parallel to the shoreline until out of the rip and go towards breaking waves that could assist you as you swim towards the shore. Do not swim directly to shore while in the rip as you will be going against the force of the rip current, and you will only get tired.
  4. If you are unable to swim but you can float, lie on your back and float, wave your hand high and call for help.

The most common reason for aquatic incidents is usually due to a lack of water safety knowledge. To be safe in and around water one must know how to swim, and swim well, it may save a life, yours!

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash