Safety on holiday

ImageGuest blog from RAPs Member Jo Cooper

Recently we have seen numerous news reports of people drowning. As well as being a swimming teacher, I am a Trainer Assessor for the STA and the RLSS. I am also a qualified lifeguard, and therefore know how to rescue. There are so many misapprehensions about safety in water. 

On two separate holidays I have undertaken two rescues.  Both times the child had fallen into the pool and was able to be rescued with a simple reach, but each time the parents were totally unaware of the child’s predicament. It is up to the swimming teachers to explain to the parents about safety in the sea and in unguarded holiday swimming pools, either abroad or in hotels in this country.  

At what age or standard is it considered that a child is safe in and around water? Nobody should be that specific. I used to sit on the side of the swimming pool, sun cream, glasses and hat on, feet in the water and just watch my kids at play. I got a lovely brown back and spent my relaxing time, knowing that my children were safe. I have the training to affect a rescue, I know the dangers of water and have the experience of knowing when a child is getting into difficulty in the pool. I know what to look for. Most parents haven’t got this training. 

I understand the need to take a buoyant aid when affecting a rescue, so that there is a distance between the rescuer and the casualty who will be in a severe state of panic. A drowning casualty with high levels of adrenalin flowing throughout their body will have an immense amount of strength certainly enough to get the untrained rescuer into trouble themselves.  

It could be argued that a good swimmer is safe. However, to understand what a good swimmer is we need to quantify the word “good”. Throughout my career I have met parents who think their children are good swimmers. This has ranged from the inadequate National Curriculum’s 25m swim which takes place in a calm pool in a school class, to being a top club swimmer. These 25m swimmers are the most at risk. They have their badge which was gained by “swimming” in deep water, and they think they are better than they really are. The top club swimmer may be able to get himself or herself out of difficulty, but without lifesaving skills, would put himself or herself in trouble if they tried to rescue a friend. 

Holiday pools abroad on the whole do not have adequate lifeguard cover. Parents must be advised to forget their holiday book and relaxing in a horizontal position by the pool; an accident or near drowning is going to ruin their holiday. They must not take the risk. My advice would be to go to the pool and find the safest place for the children to play and swim, and the place where the parent could stand up in the water and therefore walk and do a “wading” rescue. If a parent has no training in rescue techniques, it is very dangerous for them to affect a rescue in deep water when neither of them can stand. It is essential to tell the children in what area they can play, and then the parent or suitable adult must decide how they are going to watch them. 

In the sea there are currents, and at my local beach at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, there are sand banks on which people get marooned. Fortunately after a very serious accident which claimed three lives in the 1970s, the RNLI have an inshore rescue boat stationed there. The beaches, especially in this hot weather, are beautiful and the water is tempting. Parents must be taught how to act responsibly. Going to lifeguarded beaches is a good idea, but they must not rely on the lifeguards to babysit their children. When the beach is busy they have many people in a vast area to watch and then quite a distance to run to get to an incident.

Planning is the key. A plan should be made as to when and for how you’re in the water for.  We all like to have fun, but we must all be sensible and vigilant.

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