Coast­guard fam­ily day

COAST­GUARD’S IN-WA­TER SUR­VIVAL COURSE More adult males drown in New Zealand than in any other de­vel­oped coun­try. How do we fix this?

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY KIA KAROPP

Lessons in wa­ter safety

With our two small chil­dren, my hus­band and I have sailed over 30,000 nau­ti­cal miles across two oceans over the course of seven years. In­vari­ably the ques­tion is asked: what about the safety of your chil­dren at sea?

And tem­pests and storms. And some­times sea mon­sters. All of them fall into the cat­e­gory of per­spec­tive. I fear each of th­ese in late night ex­pec­ta­tions of events in front of us, but in situ ev­ery­thing is al­ways less in­tim­i­dat­ing. Other than, of course, the safety of our chil­dren.

When it comes to in­ter­na­tional statistics, chil­dren are at the high­est risk of drown­ing in­ci­dents. The WHO Western Pa­cific Re­gion states that chil­dren die more fre­quently from drown­ing than any other cause of death, a statis­tic sup­ported by The Global Re­port on Drown­ing (2014) which shows that age is the ma­jor risk fac­tor in drown­ing, with the high­est risk to chil­dren be­tween one and four years old. So, yes, there is good cause

to ask us about our safety mea­sures and how we en­sure the pro­tec­tion of our chil­dren at sea.

Here in New Zealand, how­ever, it would be more rel­e­vant to ask about the risk to your hus­band head­ing out for an early morn­ing pad­dle to Ran­gi­toto or how scared you are when your teenage son heads out on a fish­ing trip with his mates on the Hau­raki Gulf. Be­cause when it comes to New Zealand statistics, it isn’t chil­dren that rep­re­sent the high­est num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties in New Zealand wa­ters. It is con­fi­dent, strong and able-bod­ied men be­tween the ages of 18 and 45.

More adult males drown here per capita than any other de­vel­oped coun­try in the world, and the ma­jor­ity of th­ese men are com­pe­tent swim­mers who are fa­mil­iar with our weather and lo­cal wa­ters. So, where’s the gap, and what’s driv­ing th­ese statistics?

Our City of Sails claims to have more boats per capita than any­where else in the world, which suits a coun­try sur­rounded by 16,000km of coast­line, criss-crossed by 525,000km of river and pep­pered with 3,820 lakes. One in three New Zealan­ders is in­volved in recre­ational boat­ing, with an es­ti­mated 960,000 recre­ational ves­sels, rang­ing from small kayaks to large sail­ing yachts, ply­ing our wa­ters ev­ery year.

With ap­prox­i­mately one mil­lion New Zealan­ders spend­ing time on small boats, it is also not sur­pris­ing that we hold the world record in ac­ci­den­tal death in the wa­ter. Re­sults from WSNZ’S 2018 At­ti­tudes & Be­hav­iour Sur­vey show that drown­ing is the lead­ing cause of recre­ational death in New Zealand, with 90 per­cent of the drown­ing hap­pen­ing to adult males. Strong, com­pe­tent swim­mers... how can this be?

Un­for­tu­nately, it is often hap­pen­ing over avoid­able causes: 60% of boat­ing fa­tal­i­ties could have been pre­vented by the use of a life­jacket; 58% could have been pre­vented by ac­cess to ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment; 47% could have been pre­vented by check­ing the weather fore­cast; and fi­nally, nu­mer­ous wa­ter fa­tal­i­ties could have been pre­vented by avoid­ing the om­nipresent sin – al­co­hol abuse.

A dis­pro­por­tion­ately large num­ber of deaths in New Zealand wa­ters could have been avoided had peo­ple been aware of – and

Knowl­edge will help im­prove safety, pre­vent ac­ci­dents, and pro­vide you with the com­pe­tence and con­fi­dence to deal with the un­ex­pected.

pre­pared for – some of the key fac­tors in boat­ing ac­ci­dents. How do we pre­pare? My rec­om­men­da­tion is to take out ‘in­sur­ance’.

When it comes to wa­ter safety, this in­sur­ance comes in the form of ed­u­ca­tion. Coast­guard Boat­ing Ed­u­ca­tion is tak­ing on this ini­tia­tive by get­ting peo­ple in­volved in its In-wa­ter Sur­vival course which fo­cuses on th­ese four ma­jor causes of boat­ing fa­tal­i­ties in New Zealand. The course is a great way to get you talk­ing as a fam­ily about the things you need to be aware of to en­sure your safety on the wa­ter, and to pre­pare you for some of the most com­mon risks.

The six-hour course is bro­ken up into two parts – class­room dis­cus­sion and in-wa­ter practicum – and is suit­able for the en­tire fam­ily. You will learn how to avoid high risk sit­u­a­tions, what to do if you find your­self in a com­pro­mised cir­cum­stance and how to max­i­mize your chance of sur­vival. Yes, you will get wet. Yes, you will laugh. And yes, you will have fun.

The course has you in­volved in some of the sce­nar­ios that hap­pen within a safe en­vi­ron­ment, so that you can ex­pe­ri­ence a po­ten­tial sit­u­a­tion ahead of a catas­tro­phe. For ex­am­ple, what do you do if your in­flat­able life­jacket half-in­flates… in a panic, do you know how to blow it up by mouth?

What do you do if your boat flips and you have to pull your­selves out of the ocean… and what if the only ones on top of that over­turned boat are chil­dren? In class, my son didn’t have the strength to pull his younger sis­ter out of the wa­ter. How do we pre­pare for this?

Con­sider the tem­per­a­tures of New Zealand wa­ter… what would you do if you had to wait for sup­port in sub-ther­mal wa­ter? Do you know the best strate­gies to use to keep warm? Th­ese are a few of the sce­nar­ios we ran through in the in-wa­ter ses­sion of the train­ing, and th­ese are some of the ex­am­ples that have al­ready claimed a life.

Wa­ter safety cour­ses are much like in­sur­ance – you don’t need it un­til you need it. The key dif­fer­ence is that while in­sur­ance may save you money, wa­ter safety may save your life. The im­por­tance of hav­ing some form of sur­vival train­ing that as­sists you in mak­ing use­ful choices early on is key to your fam­ily’s safety, and the Coast­guard of­fers you this foun­da­tion.

As stated in its train­ing man­ual, “Knowl­edge will help im­prove safety, pre­vent ac­ci­dents, and pro­vide you with the com­pe­tence and con­fi­dence to deal with the un­ex­pected.” Get your in­sur­ance. Take the In-wa­ter Sur­vival course. Save a life. BNZ

LEFT AND RIGHT Ad­dress­ing our poor drown­ing statistics needs an at­ti­tude change among boat­ies, and plenty of wa­ter safety ed­u­ca­tion for young and old alike.

WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY KIA KAROPP

RIGHT AND BE­LOW Lessons in­clude adopt­ing strate­gies for stay­ing safe around a cap­sized boat.

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