Water Safety Considerations for the 2016 Easter Holiday Weekend

The St. Lucia Life Saving Association wishes to express happy Easter Holiday greetings to all St. Lucians and visitors to our shores. This is a time when thousands, as per our holiday customs, flock to the beaches to share memorable moments with family and friends at the beach and sometimes at the river. It is our sincere wish that everyone will be able to enjoy the holiday weekend and return home safely to his or her family.

The present situation at most of our beaches is that Lifeguards are not present to supervise and to assist in the event of a drowning incident. We urge all sea goers especially to practice extreme caution when venturing into the surrounding oceans and seas. This is also a time when many who cannot swim or who do not frequent the ocean will join sea excursions and pleasure cruises on boats. Operators of sea vessels must ensure that lifejackets (PFDs) are available for each passenger and crew on their boats.

This weekend, the St. Lucia Lifesaving Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports is placing volunteer Lifeguards at the Vigie, Reduit and Pigeon Island Causeway beaches respectively. This is in an effort to improve safety at some popular beaches this weekend and also to raise public awareness on Water Safety.

Just one week ago a young Joshua Hinds, a promising student of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College lost his life in an apparent drowning accident at the relatively calm Anse Cochon beach in Anse La Raye. Anyone can drown. Even strong swimmers can succumb to water, ailments or injuries and find themselves unable to cope with their situation in a body of water. The knowledge of Water Safety tips as well as the practice of personal safety procedures are important to help preserve life and to prevent injury.

Please observe the following Water Safety guidelines:

• Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards.

• Always swim with a buddy; do not allow anyone to swim alone. Even at a public pool or a lifeguarded beach, use the buddy system!

• Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Learn-to-Swim courses.

• Never leave a young child unattended near water and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.

• Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear proper life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.

• Establish rules for your family and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to hyperventilate before swimming under water or have breath-holding contests.

• Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes.

• If you go boating, wear a life jacket! Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.

• Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.

• Prevent Unsupervised Access to the Water o Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub. Safety covers and pool alarms should be added as additional layers of protection.

o Ensure that pool barriers enclose the entire pool area, are at least 4-feet high with gates that are self-closing, self-latching and open outward, and away from the pool. The latch should be high enough to be out of a small child’s reach.

o If you have an above-ground or inflatable pool, remove access ladders and secure the safety cover whenever the pool is not in use.

o Remove any structures that provide access to the pool, such as outdoor furniture, climbable trees, decorative walls and playground equipment.

o Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.

• Maintain Constant Supervision o Actively supervise kids whenever around the water—even if lifeguards are present. Do not just drop your kids off at the public pool or leave them at the beach—designate a responsible adult to supervise.

o Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions when supervising children around water.

o Know What to Do in an Emergency. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.

o Know how and when to call 9-9-9 or the local emergency number.

o If you own a home pool or hot tub, have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, a cell phone, life jackets and a first aid kit.

o Enroll in St. Lucia Life Saving Association water safety, first aid and CPR/AED courses to learn how to prevent and respond to emergencies

Towards the goal of improving National Safety Standards for Swimming and Water Safety, the St. Lucia Life Saving Association proposes the following:

• Swimming and lifesaving should be introduced as part of the Primary Schools’ Physical Education curriculum

• The “”Swim to Survive” standard should be adopted as a prerequisite standard for the participation of children at swim events

• Designated and safe swimming areas should be developed and established at popular beaches in St. Lucia. Artificial barrier reefs may be constructed to achieve this.

• These designated areas should be supervised by trained lifeguards

• Boat tours should be mandated to have trained lifeguards aboard

• Legislation governing the operation of seafaring vessels should be updated to reduce the incidents of reckless behavior by boat operators

• A quantity of young persons from the various communities should be trained to become lifeguards, under the NICE programs for example

The St. Lucia Life Saving Association is well aware of the level of commitment that these proposals would require. Indeed, we do not propose that that they can be achieved within a short space of time. Our Association however, cannot neglect the fact that there is a lot more that can be done to prevent accidents near the water and that there is a lot of grief that would be spared if more citizens were trained to deal with accidents when they happen.

We will in the meantime, continue to work with NEMO, the NCA and the swimming fraternity to both raise awareness and to increase the number of trained lifeguards on island. We are also continuing with current initiatives at some of the hotels in training their staff. Finally, The St. Lucia Life Saving Association hopes to engage more government agencies, including the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, in developing initiatives and implementing actions that will address both public safety and water safety concerns.

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