Life Saving Victoria is issuing an urgent plea for the public to exercise care after 9 reported drowning deaths in Victoria since the start of summer (9 coastal, 7 inland waterways, 3 pools and 1 unknown location), the highest in over a decade and 5 more than the average over the past 5 years.
Since Christmas Day, there have been four recorded drowning deaths, so Life Saving Victoria wants to stress the importance of playing it safe around the water, particularly given the large number of people expected to be heading to our beaches, rivers and pools to cool off in the coming days.
This Saturday, 6th January, the Bureau of Meteorology is also predicting the hottest Melbourne day for the year so far, with temperatures soaring above 40C in some places and strong northerly winds up to 40km/hr. The marine forecast also shows up to 30 knots in Port Phillip Bay, with a south-westerly shift late in the day.
“All beaches and rivers have their dangers, but some are more exposed to the conditions than others, so choose a more sheltered swimming spot if you’re a vulnerable swimmer,” says Greg Scott, LSV’s Lifesaving Operations Manager. “Never swim alone and don’t over-estimate your ability, it’s just not worth it.”
His advice is to always swim between the red and yellow flags, whenever possible, and learn to read and obey safety signs. Around all waterways and pools, supervision of children is essential.
Multilingual resources can also be found at beachsafe.org.au/surf-safety/multilingual, with guides on how to enjoy the beach safely and with the DHHS issuing a Heat Health alert for the day, make sure you keep hydration levels up.
“If you’re heading to the beach, remember that rips are the number one beach hazard for swimmers and each year more people drown in rips than from shark attacks, cyclones and floods combined,” says Mr Scott. “Despite this, three quarters of people can’t identify a rip current and two thirds of people who think they can spot a rip, can’t. Learning how to identify and avoid a rip current is essential for beachgoers and don’t forget rivers and bayside beaches can also have strong currents.”
LSV recommends that if you’re caught in a rip current, stay calm, conserve your energy and consider these options – raise an arm and call out to seek help; float with the current, which may return you to a shallow sandbank; swim parallel to the beach, which may help you escape the rip current; and then reassess the situation – if what you’re doing isn’t working, try another option until you return to the shore. Stay calm, all rips can be escaped from.
“Victoria has the best waterways in the country, so by all means get outdoors and experience them,” says Mr Scott. “But, we want everyone to come home safely from a day at the beach, river or by the pool, so take extra caution given the forecast conditions.”
To find out more download the beachsafe app or visit beachsafe.org.au to find where the patrolled beaches will be on the day you’re planning to visit the coast.
Further, we at LSV offering a broad range of different kinds of exercises. If you feel unsafe or need more practice, check out our life-saving training and choose the right offer for your needs.
Download the Vic Emergency App for waterway warnings at emergency.vic.gov.au and be aware and prepared for conditions by checking the Bureau of Meteorology app – bom.gov.au, for up-to-date conditions and warnings.