Fancy a swim? Read this to learn how to stay safe in the water
Heading to the beach, pool, river, lake or other waterhole for a dip is one of the joys of the Australian summer. And here in Victoria we’re lucky of have some of the best swimming spots in the world.
But this wonderful pastime requires smart choices or else it can end in tragedy. Since July last year, 43 people have drowned in Victoria (18 in December and January alone). The majority of these victims were male, and it’s the highest number of drownings for this period ever recorded in Victoria. Life Saving Victoria also conducted 476 rescues between November 2020 and 25 January this year.
We know how tempting it is to get out into the great outdoors during the warmer months, especially after those long weeks of COVID-19 lockdown. Everyone should be able to enjoy the unique feelings of exhilaration and freedom that come from swimming.
But to stay safe in the water, please ensure you educate yourself about the risks, know how to make sensible decisions and avoid peer pressure. It may save your life – or that of someone you care about.
What you need to know before you dive in
- Only swim at a patrolled beach in the company of others, and always stay between the red and yellow flags. The BeachSafe website and app show nearby patrolled beaches and where there might be hazards in the water.
- If you’re a weak swimmer or someone in your group is, choose a council pool with a lifeguard on duty instead of the beach, or use lifejackets.
- Rips can be unpredictable and dangerous even for confident swimmers. Learn how to recognise rips and what to do if you’re caught in one.
- Know your limits. You may think you’re capable in the water but don’t overestimate your abilities – a strong swimmer is someone who swims at least 12–16 kilometres a week, according to veteran lifesaver Dr Shayne Baker.
- Never swim after you’ve had alcohol or drugs. Research by the Royal Life Saving Society Australia found 40 per cent of the men who fatally drowned in the past decade had drugs or alcohol in their systems.
- If someone you’re with gets into trouble, seek expert help and don’t try to rescue them yourself. Bystander rescues often involve the death of both the person attempting the rescue and the person in trouble.
- Learn first aid. Australians have low rates of CPR knowledge, so empower yourself by doing a short course through DUSA or organisations like the Australian Red Cross and St John Ambulance Australia.
Want to know more about how to stay safe while swimming? Visit Play it Safe by the Water and LifeSaving Victoria for more information and resources, including in languages other than English. You can also follow Life Saving Victoria on Facebook for regular updates.