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Minister Issues Water Safety Appeal in Wake of Seven Water Tragedies in Seven Days

27th July 2021
A life ring bearing the logo of Irish Water Safety
Credit: Stefan Ray/Flickr

In the lead-up to the August Bank Holiday weekend, the Minister of State in the Department of Transport has issued an appeal to anybody engaging in coastal or water-based activity to pay close attention to their personal safety.

Today’s (Tuesday 27 July) water safety appeal by Minister Hildegarde Naughton alongside staff and volunteers of the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI comes in the wake of more than seven water tragedies in seven days.

The latest of these occurred yesterday, Monday 26 July, when a 14-year-old boy recovered from Hollywood Lake in Co Monaghan on Sunday died in Dublin’s Temple Street Children’s Hospital, according to the Irish Mirror.

Also on Sunday 25 July, as The Irish Times reports, a man in his 60s was recovered from the water at Tramore in Co Waterford and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the loved ones of those we have lost at sea on their heartbreaking and untimely loss,” the minister said. “This loss of lives in as many days provides a stark reminder to us all as to how quickly serious accidents can happen.

“This Bank Holiday weekend we can all make personal decisions which will go a long way towards staying safe in the water, such as ensuring that swimmers are accompanied, not using inflatables and letting friends or family know your planned return time.”

The August Bank Holiday weekend is by tradition the peak holiday period, and with many people holidaying at home this summer it is likely that even greater numbers will avail of coastal and water-based activities.

The Marine Safety Communications group, which is coordinated by the Department of Transport, has identified three key safety areas:

  1. Inflatable toys should never be used on the beach or inland waterways.
  2. Swimmers should always ensure that they are accompanied or that their activity is being monitored by a colleague ashore. Open-water swimmers and.or longer-distance swimmers should wear a high visibility swim cap and use a tow float to ensure that they are visible at all times. Only swim in lifeguarded beaches or on beaches that are in regular use, be alert to local safety warnings and always ensure that somebody is aware of your planned return time.
  3. Users of Jet Skis and personal watercraft are asked to be mindful of swimmers by avoiding swimming areas and by observing local bye laws.

The Irish Coast Guard says it has seen a major growth in demand for assistance this year and to date has coordinated responses to a total of 1,763 incidents, an increase of 400 for the same period last year and 150 more than any year over the last five years.

Minister Naughton reminded anybody engaged in outdoor activities to always check the weather forecast and tide times and local conditions.

In addition to familiarising ourselves with tides we should also be mindful of the risk posed by local currents and in particular rip currents. These most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and near structures such as jetties, piers and the speeds under certain tide and beach profiles can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the water.

The minister also appealed to coastal walkers to avoid any areas with which they are not familiar and stay away from coastal and cliff edges. It is important to dress appropriately for the conditions, to wear a high-factor sunscreen, carry a fully charged, water-protected mobile phone and to bring enough food and water for the planned trip. (See below for a guide to safe coastal walking.)

Minister Naughton added: “I recently attended a meeting of the Search and Rescue Stakeholders Forum where I saw constructive engagement between the Maritime community, SAR coordinators and SAR providers I want to thank all those at the frontline of Search and Rescue in particular the three Coast Guard Coordination centres at Malin, Valentia and MRCC Dublin, coastguard and RNLI Volunteers, coastguard Helicopter crews and Community Inshore Rescue crews, as well as support provided by Navy and Air Corps resources.”

She concluded by encouraging everybody to attend to their personal safety, stating: “Remember, water will win if we do not observe basic water safety measures.”

Safety Guidelines for Coastal Walking

  • Stay in Contact — Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back, it is always best to be accompanied.
  • Tides — Pay attention to local tidal times and local conditions. Be alert to the danger of getting stranded or cut off. www.Safetyonthewater.gov.ie
  • Weather — Check the weather forecast.
  • Route — Familiarise yourself with your planned route and any associated hazards. Seek local knowledge if you are unsure of the area.
  • Phone — Ensure your phone is fully charged before setting out and carry it in a water proof container.
  • Sunset — To avoid walking in darkness, be aware of the time the sun sets. If you know both this and the expected duration of the walk, you’ll have an optimum start time to set off.
  • Sun Protection — Wear a hat. Wear a high factor sun protection.
  • Safety Signage — Pay attention to any safety signage identifying hazards.
  • Clothing — Dress appropriately and wear suitable walking footwear. Be visible: aim to wear at least one item of bright colour such as red or orange so that you remain visible to the people in your party or rescue services if needs be.
  • Food and Water — Bring enough food and water for your journey and some extra rations in case your excursion goes on for longer than expected.
  • Children — Ensure children are always supervised, keeping small children close to parents or adults during any coastal walking activity.
  • Coastal and Cliff Terrain — Stay away from exposed coastal and cliff edges.
  • Sea Conditions — Do not underestimate the unpredictable nature of sea conditions where swell or wave activity can change dramatically and sweep a person without warning from a rock edge into the sea. Stay Back, Stay High, Stay Dry.
  • Dogs — Keep dogs under control and do not enter the water to rescue animals. Ring 999/112 for assistance.

For more information on how to stay safe this summer, visit www.gov.ie/summerready

Published in Water Safety
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