Life­line to stop drown­ings

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Dave Sa­vides

TRIED and tested and al­ready hav­ing saved more than a dozen lives in 2018, the NSRI’s ‘pink buoy’ cam­paign is set to help re­duce the num­ber of drown­ings in Zu­l­u­land this sum­mer.

The con­cept is a sim­ple one, mak­ing use of floata­tion tor­pedo buoy de­vices al­ready widely used in life­saver cir­cles – but putting them in the hands of mem­bers of the pub­lic most likely to be on scene when bathers get into dif­fi­cul­ties.

This per­tains not only to beaches and coastal wa­ters, but also to rivers, dams and in­land wa­ter­ways.

On the lo­cal scene, the buoys will be par­tic­u­larly valu­able at pop­u­lar recre­ational ar­eas such as Richards Bay’s Bay Hall and Pel­i­can Is­land zones, where sud­den drops in ocean bed depth leave non-swim­mers un­able to stand.

Lo­ca­tions have been iden­ti­fied where the pink buoys, which have long ropes at­tached, will be housed in con­tain­ers, also giv­ing in­struc­tions and emer­gency con­tact num­bers.

Bar­ring theft, van­dal­ism or mis­use, and if used prop­erly, they will un­doubt­edly pre­vent lives be­ing lost.

On­look­ers, see­ing a bather in trou­ble, can throw the buoy out to the swim­mer, who can then be pulled back to safety by the rope.

On Thurs­day evening, the NSRI project won the 2018 IMRF (In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Res­cue Fed­er­a­tion) award for in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy at a pres­ti­gious gala din­ner in Nor­way.

NSRI head of drown­ing preven­tion, An­drew In­gram, was present to re­ceive the award.

‘There is a clear pat­tern where peo­ple are drown­ing be­cause of a lack of floata­tion,’ said In­gram.

‘The typ­i­cal sce­nario is that some­one is in dif­fi­culty in the water and a well-mean­ing by­stander goes in to help.

‘Trag­i­cally, the helper - of­ten also a non­swim­mer - is usu­ally the per­son who may be most likely to drown.

‘Res­cues world­wide use tor­pedo buoy floata­tion. These buoys are af­ford­able and ef­fec­tive.

‘The idea was to then make these avail­able as pub­lic res­cue de­vices,’ said In­gram.

‘A year later we have 300 in­stal­la­tions around the coun­try, and while theft has hov­ered be­tween 8 and 18%, most im­por­tantly 15 lives have been saved.

‘The next step is to make this per­va­sive across all beaches and be­side all water bod­ies. Through part­ner­ships and com­mu­nity buy-in this is pos­si­ble.’

Dave Sa­vides

Life­line for swim sea­son! Drown ‘vic­tim’ Charné Sk­iba pre­pares to catch the pink floata­tion buoy hurled by NSRI vol­un­teer Jean Slab­bert, as col­leagues Ryan Chase and Hil­le­gard Holtzhausen pre­pare to give as­sis­tance to haul the pa­tient to shore dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in the Bay Hall area on Sat­ur­day morn­ing

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