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Displaying items by tag: Water Safety Ireland

As the June bank holiday approaches, the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued another joint water safety appeal — this time for the many thousands of people expected to take advantage of the break this weekend and visit the coast and inland waters.

The organisations are asking people to check that they have the correct equipment they need to enjoy their activities and that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Water-based activities are safe and enjoyable with the right equipment. However, inflatable toys are not suitable for use in open water, including at the seaside, inland waters and rivers.

Inflatable toys, including dinghies and air mattresses, can quickly blow out to open waters or capsize. They should not be used in any open waters.

The three organisations have issued a joint water safety appeal as the summer months traditionally bring an increase in callouts for the search and rescue organisations, including coastguard and lifeboat crews, many of whom are volunteers.

As the popularity of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding increases, the safety advice for these activities includes:

  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off
  • Paddle in a group where possible. If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area

“We want everybody to enjoy our waters but please pay attention to your own safety,” Irish Coast Guard operations manager Micheál O’Toole said.

“Never, ever swim alone and if you are using a boat or kayak, please ensure that if an emergency arises and you need assistance, that you are capable of contacting the coastguard with a marine VHF radio, PLB or EPIRB. Never rely on a mobile phone alone.”

RNLI water safety delivery support Lisa Hollingum said: “It’s great to see people getting out and taking part in water based activities this summer but it’s important to know what to do if something unexpected happens.

“There are so many great products on the market for water safety and something as simple as a water proof pouch to hold a means of communication for when you go out on a paddle board or kayak, can make all the difference.”

Water Safety Ireland’s acting chief executive Roger Sweeney added: “This weekend, the lifeguards trained and assessed by Water Safety Ireland begin summer patrols at local authority run bathing areas.

“Last year, they rescued 473 people and provided first aid to 6,700 people. This weekend, let them be there for you. Bring your loved ones to any of the lifeguarded waterways listed at watersafety.ie.”

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble, dial 999 or 112 or use VHF Channel 16 and ask for the coastguard.

Published in Water Safety

In the lead up to the May bank holiday weekend, the Coast Guard, RNLI and Water Safety Ireland have issued a joint water safety appeal, asking people to take some basic steps to stay safe, as incidents continue to occur as the weather improves and more people visit waterways nationwide or participate in coastal and inland aquatic activities.

There has been a seasonable increase in the overall number of search and rescue incidents with activity levels similar to recent years. The three organisations are drawing particular attention to the need for people involved in sea kayaking and similar activities, to receive proper training before going on the water, to carry a reliable means of calling for help and to tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back.

Water temperatures remain cold even at this time of year and Cold Water Shock can affect everyone. The three organisations advise everyone intending to take part in any water-based activity or coastal walks to take some basic steps in advance to keep safe.

If heading out on the water or visiting the coast:

  • Always check the weather and tides
  • Carry a reliable means of raising the alarm (i.e. VHF radio or phone)
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back
  • Wear a suitable Personal Flotation Device on the water
  • Watch out for incoming tides to avoid getting cut off. With High Tides ranging from midday to early evening depending on the part of the coast, it is important that people check before walking along the coast.

If you are swimming:

  • Water temperatures are still cold at this time of the year, consider wearing a wetsuit to stay warm
  • Acclimatise slowly
  • Wear a bright swimming cap and consider a tow float to increase your visibility
  • Never swim alone and always ensure that your activity is being monitored by a colleague

Micheál O’Toole, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager, said: ‘It is important to have a means of communication if engaging in any water-based activity. When boating, carry a VHF radio, backed up by flares, PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) or EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Never solely rely on a mobile phone.’

He added ‘that prior to undertaking any boat activity please ensure that equipment is fit for purpose and that a shore-based contact is aware of your plans and estimated duration.’

Kevin Rahill, RNLI Water Safety Lead, added: ‘Many people will be taking to the water for the first time this year and this is a good time to think about checking your equipment, especially your lifejacket. We recommend that people get their lifejackets serviced annually. Not everyone intends to end up in the water. If you fall in unexpectedly, remember to ‘Float to Live’ – lie on your back and spread your arms and legs, gently moving them to keep afloat. Keep floating until you feel your breath coming back before calling for help or swimming ashore if nearby.

‘For visitors and people new to our shores, the RNLI has a range of translated safety resources in many languages which are available to download here: https://rnli.org/safety/multi-lingual-resources

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland’s Acting CEO, cautions: ‘Muscle cooling due to hypothermia is a factor in many drownings. Swim within your depth and keep it short as warm air does not mean warm water, especially in May. Children require close, constant, uninterrupted supervision. When shoreline walking, beware of being stranded by incoming tides. Many recently arrived Ukrainians have never visited a beach and are unfamiliar with such stranding risks. Please help to keep them safe by reaching out in your community with the translated advice at; www.watersafety.ie/ukraine ’

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast, or think they are in trouble; Dial 112 or use VHF radio CH 16 and ask for the Coast Guard.

Published in Coastguard

The Chief Executive of Water Safety Ireland, the State organisation headquartered in Galway, has retired. John Leech had been CEO for 21 years.

“When I joined the organisation the 10-year annual average of fatal drownings was 185, today it is 115 and thankfully the trend is downward,” he said on announcing is retirement.

“Our membership was less than 1,000 whilst today it is over 5,500. In terms of lifesaving sport we had two weekends of sport each year. We now have 22 or 23 competitions each year and we had no vehicles, boats craft or buildings, WSI now has lots of equipment, boats, buildings, vehicles now to enable it to run training programmes and sports competitions.”

Before joining Water Safety Ireland he had served with the Navy as a Lt.Commander and was involved in developing the Naval Service Diving Unit.

Water Safety Ireland is a statutory, voluntary body and registered charity established to promote water safety and reduce drownings in Ireland.

Published in Water Safety

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today appointed Clare McGrath as the new Chair of Water Safety Ireland (WSI), which works to prevent drownings.

Ms McGrath has been a lifelong advocate for drowning prevention and in addition to being a volunteer with WSI and serving on the WSI Council, is the Water Safety Development Officer with Clare County Council since 2014.

Ms McGrath received a thirty-year Long Service Award at the WSI National Awards Ceremony in November for her voluntary efforts as an Instructor, Examiner and Tutor and her experience predates this Award, having won National Lifesaving Competitions aged sixteen and lifeguarding at seventeen. As a current member of the WSI Council, she has helped to develop a National Drowning Prevention Strategy. As the current Chair of the WSI Sports Commission, she has played a key role in developing Lifesaving Sport in which participation levels are at an all-time high. 

Currently the Chair of the Federation of Irish Sport, and the former Chair of Swim Ireland, Ms McGrath has a particular penchant for teaching the Water Safety Ireland Lifeguarding and Lifesaving Sport syllabus through which a corps of Lifeguards is educated so that waterways and pools have competent cover to protect the public.

Announcing the appointment, Minister Humphreys said: “I am delighted to appoint Clare McGrath as the new Chairperson of the Council to Water Safety Ireland. Clare brings a wealth of experience as a lifelong member of Water Safety Ireland and Swim Ireland. I also want to acknowledge the contribution of Martin O’Sullivan, the outgoing Chair, and to thank him for his strong contribution and dedication to Water Safety Ireland over several years. WSI is an organisation with a rich history of volunteerism and is deeply committed to these volunteers who teach swimming, lifesaving and promote drowning prevention initiatives nationwide. WSI has been consistently to the fore in raising awareness of the dangers of drowning in water over many years as well as the education and training of thousands of people in water safety.” 

Commenting on her appointment as WSI Chair, Ms McGrath said: “My objective is to bring drownings down by promoting the necessary rescue skills, attitudes and behaviours that will prevent drownings and water related accidents. I very much look forward to working with the WSI Council and engaging it’s Commissions, the thirty Water Safety Area Committees nationwide and it’s members, Local Authorities, and other Agencies to develop policies and projects that help encourage more participation and engagement at all levels. Over the next five years as Chairperson I look forward to providing leadership to the Council in the continued delivery of Ireland’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy 2018-2027, and the strategic development of the organisation. I thank the outgoing Chair Martin O’Sullivan for his commitment and the WSI staff for the support they give to drowning prevention.” 

The CEO of WSI, John Leech and staff welcome this appointment and look forward to working with Ms McGrath on delivering many projects ahead.

Published in Water Safety
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Irish people are more likely to take water safety seriously if it doesn’t involve obeying a law.

As The Sunday Independent reports, almost two decades after wearing a lifejacket first became compulsory in Ireland, legislation has proved so unenforceable that there have only been a handful of prosecutions.

However, Ireland is still at the top of the league table in lifejacket use, according to Water Safety Ireland (WSI) chief executive John Leech.

Educational campaigns, rather than legislation, may be the main reason for compliance at an average of over 80 per cent, Leech says.

Wearing lifejackets on the decks of fishing vessels became law in 2002 under a statutory instrument introduced by former Fianna Fáíl marine minister Frank Fahey.

Children up to the age of 16 years on mechanically-propelled pleasure craft, jetski operators and certain categories of commercial passenger boats were also covered by the initial legislation.

However, in 2003, then marine minister Dermot Ahern said that he would be extending mandatory wearing of lifejackets to everyone except surfers and oars people involved in competitive rowing.

The previous year, five people lost their lives in the Pisces angling boat accident off Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford. None of the victims had been wearing any sort of flotation device.

When the Pleasure Craft (Personnel Flotation Devices and Operation( Safety) Regulations came into effect in 2005, the Garda were automatically empowered to implement them, and other officers could be authorised by the relevant minister and other bodies including a harbour authority.

The 2005 regulations required that there must be suitable PFDs/lifejackets for everyone on board any pleasure craft of any length.

The regulations also required that PFDs must be worn by anyone on board an open craft or on the deck of a craft under seven metres (23 ft) in length and anyone under 16 years of age on any craft.

In addition, users of skis, donuts and jetskis were required to wear them.

The fine was fixed at 150 euro, and the only exceptions were made for divers, swimmers from a stationary vessel, or for those on board a vessel tied up alongside or made fast to an anchor, marina, pier or mooring.

However, legal experts warned that the regulations would be unenforceable without resources.

The Garda Press Office said that since 2006 there have been five incidents recorded under the Merchant Shipping Act relating to the “non-wearing of life vests”.

“Legislation is important, but education has proved to be more effective,” Leech said.

“This water safety awareness now starts in pre-schools, and is already well established in Irish primary schools,” he said.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Water Safety

Cork County Council has joined the Irish Coast Guard and Water Safety Ireland in appealing to members of the public to be mindful of their personal safety if they’re visiting the coast this week.

The three organisations have issued guidelines for anyone taking part in coastal walks. They’re asking people to stay away from exposed coastal and cliff edges, tell someone where you’re going and to pay attention to tide times and safety signs.

They’re also advising people to dress appropriately for the conditions, to wear a high-factor sunscreen and to bring enough food and water for their journey.

A status yellow high temperature warning remains in place for the entire country. Met Éireann is predicting maximum temperatures of between 25 and 30 degrees for Co Cork until tomorrow, Friday 23 July.

Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Gillian Coughlan said: “We all appreciate the vital work that the council’s beach lifeguards, coastguard and RNLI do on a daily basis, and the last thing anyone wants is to put these vital services under unnecessary strain. By staying informed and prepared, we can help ensure our own safety and the safety of our family members.

“Plan your route carefully and keep an eye on the tide times to avoid being cut off by a tidal cutoff. Keep to the path when enjoying our beautiful coastal walkways; keep dogs on leashes and keep a safe distance from cliff edges, which can be extremely unstable. Cork has an unmatched coastline; let us take advantage of it safely.”

Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council, added: “Co Cork is home to 19% of the country’s coastline and thousands of people are expected to flock to the seaside to make the most of the good weather. I hope that holiday makers and day trippers will follow these simple guidelines to ensure that they have a safe and enjoyable visit.

“I would also remind visitors to park safely and to ensure that they are not blocking vital access for the emergency services.”

Water Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech highlights the fact that there will be a full moon on Saturday which will bring with it spring tides which increases the risk of stranding.

“Please carry a mobile phone and call 112 and ask for the coastguard if you find yourself in difficulty or being cut off by the tide,” he said.

The Irish Coast Guard’s head of operations Gerard O’Flynn said that the number of incidents coordinated by the coastguard is at a five-year high and he appealed to the public to at all times to be mindful of their personal safety, be it on the water or along the coast.

“Please ensure that any activity you engage in is being monitored by a colleague who should be aware of your plans and estimated return time,” he said.

Cork County Council’s beach lifeguards are on full-time duty from 10.30am until 7pm daily at 12 beaches: Youghal Front Strand, Claycastle, Redbarn, Garryvoe, Fountainstown, Inchydoney East & West, Owenahincha, The Warren, Tragumna, Barleycove Beaches, Garrylucas and Garretstown.

If you see somebody in trouble on the water or along the coast use VHF Channel 16 or Dial 112 and ask for coastguard.

For more information, visit gov.ie/summerready or safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Published in Water Safety

Water Safety Ireland is recruiting for an Education Officer to join the team based in Galway, though the role is currently remote due to COVID-19.

The successful candidate will be responsible for a variety of areas, including assisting with the development and delivery of water safety education and training programmes, workshops and camps to the likes of schools and aquatic facilities.

For more details on this entry level position and to apply online, visit the Water Safety Ireland website HERE.

Published in Jobs
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In asking the public to remain vigilant near water this Bank holiday weekend, Water Safety Ireland says the risks are even greater at inland waterways. Although 40,000 people live less than 100 metres from the coast and some 2 million people live within 5km of the coast (40% of the population), the majority of drownings, some 62%, actually occur inland at our rivers and lakes.

As people stay home apart from exercising within 5km, Water Safety Ireland is advising the public that to stay SAFE is to “Stay Away From the Edge” if exercising near water this October Bank Holiday and throughout the upcoming mid-term break for schools. Now that people cannot meet up apart from with one other household, the risk of not being rescued if you get into difficulty will increase because there may not be others around to see an accident unfold.

As people are urged to adhere to Government advice at gov.ie/covid19, it is equally important that people adhere to water safety advice during periods of exercise within the Level 5 restrictions, and particularly if a walking regime includes the supervision of children.

WSI is reminding parents and guardians that thirty children died from drowning in ten years. Children are naturally curious about water and constant supervision is the safest way to avoid tragedy. Drownings can occur within the home environments to which we are restricted, where familiarity can breed complacency, making danger more difficult to spot. Streams, drains, ponds, water tanks, septic tanks, slurry pits and waterside fencing should all be properly secured.

  • Be aware of the changeable weather at this time of year. Reduced temperatures increase the risk of cold shock and hypothermia which makes swimming to safety difficult or impossible.
  • Do not attempt to rescue pets from the water. Earlier this week, a gentleman had a lucky escape after falling from a cliff walk while trying to rescue his dog. In such instances, there may not be anyone around to call the Rescue Services as people comply with the need to stay at home.
  • Always wear a Lifejacket when on or near water and ensure that it has a correctly fitted crotch strap. Surfers, kite boarders, divers, kayakers and sailors should wear suitably warm and waterproof clothing.
  • Shore walkers should stay away from the edge and remain vigilant to the dangers of being stranded and to being carried away by dangerous swells
  • In emergency situations, call 112 early and ask for the Coast Guard. 
Published in Water Safety
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As the official bathing season draws to a close this month, Water Safety Ireland is calling on parents and families to dispose of their inflatable toys.

Earlier this week, Afloat’s Tom MacSweeney interviewed Water Safety Ireland chief John Leech, who explained why such inflatable toys — which often resemble canoes, lilos or cartoon animals, and are not to be confused with towable inflatables — are not suited to Ireland’s unpredictable offshore breezes.

Water Safety Ireland also said it is unfair on rescue services to have to have to respond to avoidable incidents involving these “inflatable killers”, after a summer that saw a rise in callouts involving these toys as families staycationed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Listen to the John Leech interview on Tom MacSweeney’s latest podcast for Afloat.ie HERE.

Published in Water Safety

Upon the busiest Bank Holiday weekend of the year, Water Safety Ireland is appealing for people to swim only where lifeguards are present and to adhere to social distancing guidelines at beaches.

Water temperature is approaching its highest for the bathing season (sea water is between 14C and 16C and freshwater is between 16C and 18C) so people should encourage their friends and family to join them for an open water swim, as it benefits both physical and mental health.

But care must always be taken, too. In 2019, 105 people drowned in Ireland. And lifeguards administered first aid to 3,284 people last season, highlighting the need for personal responsibility. They also located 289 lost children and rescued 260 casualties from the water nationwide.

The public should be responsible when on or near water, have a healthy respect for the dangers and ensure that all activities are safe and within one’s ability. Novice and beginners must always swim within their depth — and stay within their depth.

Beware of rip currents on all surfing beaches or those with a steep gradient. These can quickly take a person away from shore which is helpful to the surfer but can cause tragedy for those who do not understand such currents.

Lifeguards are trained to spot these currents and keep people away from danger. Should you find yourself in one, then swim parallel to the shore until you leave it, then swim back ashore.

Stranding will also be a risk for many coastal walkers, therefore a mobile phone should be carried to call 112 in an emergency and ask for the coastguard.

Parents should provide constant uninterrupted supervision, as 30 children aged 14 and under drowned within the last 10 years. Never use inflatable toys in open water as they can quickly be swept out to sea by offshore winds and currents.

Alcohol should be avoided before or during any aquatic activity. Alcohol is a factor in an average of three of every 10 drownings.

Those going afloat should always wear a lifejacket and carry a portable Marine VHF and/or a personal locator beacon.

The newly updated Safety on the Water website provides a one-stop shop for this and all other marine safety information. Afloat.ie has more HERE.

Published in Water Safety
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