Think water safety this summer and prevent drowning

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Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) is reminding Kiwis to stay safe this summer as they hit the beaches, lakes and rivers this holiday season.

WSNZ’s Chief Executive, Daniel Gerrard, says: “While we want everyone to enjoy the summer break, unfortunately, too many New Zealanders are still drowning. There have been five preventable drowning deaths on average over the past five summer holiday periods[1].

“WSNZ wants zero drowning fatalities this holiday period and we need everyone to  take personal responsibility for their safety and that of those they care for if we are to avoid drowning fatalities this summer.”

WSNZ’s drowning statistics[2] show that the high-risk groups are men; adults boating; young people swimming; and Asian, Māori and Pasifika people fishing. On a per-capita basis, New Zealand’s preventable fatal drowning rate is 1.62 per 100,000. This rate has been steady for the past five years. We also have a high drowning rate compared to Australia. Drowning in New Zealand is the leading cause of recreational death and the second highest cause of death by unintentional injury for people under 25 years of age.

“Too many lives are needlessly lost, and families devastated. It doesn’t need to be this way.

“Our frontline rescue services Surf Lifesaving NZ and Coastguard NZ are bracing themselves for a busy summer, but everyone can play a part by thinking about water safety. People just need to remember some key water safety rules for safe play in the water,” Daniel Gerrard says.

  • Be prepared – Check the weather forecast, marine conditions; know the local environment, safe swimming spots; set rules for safe play; use safe and well-maintained equipment.
  • Look out for yourself and others. Always supervise children around water and keep children under five years within arm’s reach; never swim alone. Swim between the flags at the beach and make sure everyone on board the boat is wearing a well-fitted lifejacket.
  • Be aware of the dangers. The water will be cold. If it’s a surf beach, it’s a rip beach.
  • Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your abilities and skill level; know what you can and can’t do in the water

Wherever there is water, there are risks. If you are going away for the weekend, do some research about risks or ask locals, and if you’re at a holiday home with little ones, check for hazards. If there’s a pool, make sure the gates and fences are secure and work properly.

WSNZ says that underestimating the risks and overestimating ability are the biggest mistakes people make when they’re in the water.

“New Zealanders love to play in the water, but there is always risk. We all need to be aware of and think, for a few minutes, about water safety before heading to the water. It could save your or your loved one’s lives.

“Be prepared, know the risks and your limits, and watch out for yourself and others,” Daniel Gerrard says.

[1] WSNZ Holiday Drowning Period stats: Five-year average preventable drowning deaths for previous five-year holiday periods 2016/17 to 2020/2021: 5

[2] WSNZ Drowning Statistics

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