Life Saving Victoria is urging Victorians to refresh their water safety knowledge, after one person has drowned while scuba diving near Point Danger in Torquay today, and four others were rescued from a rip at nearby Fisherman’s Beach last Sunday.
It comes just weeks out from the new summer season, and nine months after the worst summer drowning toll on record for the state.
“The weather is expected to be hot on Monday, but, conditions are so changeable at this time of year that we urge people to look deeper into the weather forecasts than just the temperature,” says Greg Scott, LSV Lifesaving Operations Manager. “It’s important to assess beach conditions when you arrive, and to continue to check weather conditions during the day.”
Following on from the recent incidents, his advice is to be aware and prepared before heading to the water, never swim in clothing that can weigh you down and to read and obey safety signs when you get there.
“If you’re heading to the beach, remember that rips are the number one beach hazard for swimmers,” says Mr Scott. “Last summer, we saw unprecedented numbers of rip currents and it’s important to recognise that beach conditions can change significantly during the day.”
Despite the risk of rip currents, Surf Life Saving Australia research found that 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 it’s also important to note that 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 – wave 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,” reassures Mr Scott.
Multilingual resources on rip currents and on beach safety can also be found at www.beachsafe.org.au, where the public can also see where to find their nearest patrolled beach location to swim between the red and yellow flags. A new nippers season is around the corner, so consider signing up to a life saving club and enrolling your children in a surf safety education program.
As well as learning to identify rip currents, LSV encourages people never to swim alone, always supervise children within arm’s length under 10-years-of-age, be aware of water conditions and to be realistic about the limitations of skills and fitness, especially for older people.
Download the Vic Emergency App for waterway warnings, such as shark sightings, at emergency.vic.gov.au and be aware and prepared for conditions by checking the Bureau of Meteorology app or bom.gov.au, for up-to-date conditions and warnings.
Featured Photograph courtesy of The Geelong Advertiser, taken by Shaun Viljoen.